by Amanda Eleftheriades
Photo by Laura McMahon
Many of us lie awake at night, watching the hours tick by but unable to switch off an overactive mind.
In the morning we get up more tired than when we went to bed, frustrated at the waste of time and energy.
Mental health challenges and a family tragedy left John McMahon struggling with anxiety and sleepless nights.
Last summer he decided to put his extra waking hours to good use and create a poetry collection which he hopes will help others through life’s challenges.
And so ‘Notes of an Insomniac’ was born.
The 86-page book is divided into three sections – Anxious Heart, State of the World and Why Do I Love You?
Together they are a powerful testimony to John’s personal experiences of growing up in the hard, sometimes harsh, working class streets of Paisley; to the anxieties and stresses facing all of us in many different ways and also to the beauty of love, in its many shapes and forms.
How It All Began
John explained how he discovered his passion for the written word. “I started writing when I was 16, this was before I was diagnosed with any mental health condition.
“I left school without any qualifications, and it was at a local writing group that my love of poetry started.
“I used to write a lot of happy and uplifting stuff but my uncle was kicked to death in the street in front of me and after that my poetry became much darker.
“The poem ‘Anxious Heart’ is about my bi-polar ups and downs.
“I called that first section Anxious Heart because anxiety runs through most mental health conditions.”
John finds his writing helps calm his overactive mind and anxious heart and he hopes others reading his book will find some peace in his words.
He added: “It is definitely therapeutic, almost cathartic, for me.
“I know I’m not going to sell thousands of copies but I hope that I can touch people in a way that makes sense and helps them through tough times.”
The book is dedicated to his wife Laura, who he describes as his ‘rock’ and his daughter Mirren, described as a ‘big bright shining star in my life’.
The foreword to ‘Notes of an Insomniac’ is written by Morag Smith, the poet who facilitated that very first writing group John joined in Paisley Library.
She described the collection as being “luminous with simple joys but also dives into darkness and turbulence of the world today.”
John moved to Dumbarton 15 years ago and is now a member of the weekly writing group in the Phoenix Centre in Castlehill where he continues to draw inspiration and share ideas with other creative minds.
He added: “I’m a better writer for being a member of the Phoenix Writers group.
“Oli Higham who runs the group has been such an amazing impact on my writing, as have others in the group.
“And my friend Christine Robertson has been a great creative support and helped me put this book together and get it published via Amazon.”
Notes of an Insomniac is available to purchase on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0BS8HJMXP?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details