Using the power of words in the face of MS and depression
They say, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ and local MS Warrior, Robert Gillet, has chosen words as his weapon in his fight against Multiple Sclerosis and depression.
‘Beneath the Tracksuit’ is Robert Gillet’s pen name that heads his poetry page on social media, where he has more than 5,000 followers that have formed over the short space of a year.
In 2015, at the age of 25, Robbie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Knowing that this diagnosis could cause serious health problems, he and his family made the decision to move to Bodmin to be closer to other family members, this same year.
This is when Robbie found the healing power of words. At first, he wrote as a coping strategy for himself; now he shares his words to help support others all over the world. Robbie’s poems were first formed as a diary to track his illness and the depression and anxiety that it amplified. At first, Robbie struggled to turn his negative emotions into poetry, feeling an element of ‘embarrassment’ and stigma around writing poetry. The health benefits this form of expression had, however, finally prevailed and in May 2021, Robbie’s wife Donna finally convinced him to share his words online.
Robbie soon realised that his poetry gave hope and comfort to many people - not just those with MS, but also people suffering from depression and other hidden illnesses and disabilities. His public poetry page aims to give a voice to those that struggle to find their own and he has helped make a whole online community feel less alone.
After some encouragement from local community organisations including SkillShare, Bodmaxx and intoBodmin, Robbie continued to spread awareness by first performing his poems at local open mic nights, which within six months, led to him running his own fundraising event in Bodmin for The MS Merlin Centre in St Austell.
In just a year Robbie has been published in multiple magazines, spread awareness locally and online and published his own book, ‘Thoughts of a Warrior’.
Robbie has been greatly inspired by American rapper ‘Jelly Roll’ and the pain expressed through his music. Robbie told Bodmin Life: “I started writing poetry, I can’t sing, I’m not a rapper, it’s something I found I can do.”
Now, he is taking the first steps towards recording his own words through Studio Bodmin, a project that has taken on 12 local musicians and artists to record and produce a collaborative CD, this will also lead to a local performance event. Through this project, Robbie wishes to create an emotive track to inspire hope in others with hidden disabilities.
One of Robbie’s most inspirational poems is, ‘Change without Changing’. This is a poem that Robbie has recently shared on his Facebook page, ‘Beneath the Tracksuit’, and it is one of many poems that help members of his online community feel less alone. It touches on how MS has dramatically changed his life and how his perception of the world has had to adapt for him to begin to cope with his illness.
Change without Changing
The world has changed all around me,
It changed without changing,
My view on the world,
It's all new,
It’s totally different.
The world was my playground and I had mastered it.
Pavements and roads,
Houses and people.
Gardens and woodland.
The world as most people know it,
I grew with it,
I lived within in,
I had mastered it.
Now I see it different,
It changed without changing,
I see drop curbs and disabled parking,
I see distance and difficult terrain,
I see stairs and hills,
Medication and pills,
I see new people and a different public.
I see stares and people’s judgement,
I don't see the world I remember,
The world I once knew had changed without changing.
I need to learn this new world,
Accept my new perspective,
A different view,
Remaster my playground and the way the world works,
Their judgmental ways,
Make new friends,
Put a smile back on my face,
Accept the adjustments,
Find myself in this new place,
Grow within in,
Live within it,
I need to master this new playground,
Master this world that changed without changing.
Changed without changing