70 Stories

#10 I’m Doing My Best

‘You stared past me, hiding behind those heavy curtains.’

Most entries in the SMHAF Writing Awards are poems or short stories, but blog entries are also welcomed – here’s a compelling example from this year’s awards shortlist, by Cathie Devitt.


I catch a glimpse of you sometimes. Sat there in the shadows.

Are you watching me struggle with the baby, the pram, the shopping?

Do you hear us argue when he’s home?

Does the baby’s crying keep you awake at night?

I’m sorry, I’m doing my best.


It wasn’t an easy birth, you know, it was catastrophic.

Do you have children? All grown up I expect?

You won’t remember how difficult it can be?

I try to keep the baby quiet but she is so demanding. I try not to argue with him, but he is so irritating.

I’m sorry, I’m doing my best.


I waved at you today. You stared past me, hiding behind those heavy curtains.

I smiled. You didn’t move. I noticed a shawl around your shoulders.

Are you cold? Do you have enough to pay the bills?

I have a pot of beef stew I could share. Would you think me condescending?

I’m sorry, I’m doing my best.


The hypno birthing didn’t go to plan, emergency C section in the end, but not until I’d gone through hours and hours of excruciating pain.

I couldn’t look at her when she was born. Couldn’t even hold her at first and when they laid her on my breast I felt nothing but a dull ache and sense of failure.

He wanted to film us on his mobile. I wanted to stab him through the eye with a rusty fork.

Did you hear him stagger home yesterday?

I’m sorry, I’m doing my best.


The snow was heavy last night. Are you okay?

I don’t see many visitors at your door?

He says you’re a nosy old bat who probably doesn’t have any friends.

His friends call round at all hours. Was the music too loud?

I was busy trying to soothe the baby. Colic they said at the health centre.

The rooms at the back are quieter, I hope that’s where you sleep?

I’m sorry, I’m doing my best.


Why do you sit at the window all day? The view isn’t great is it?

Are you waiting for someone?

Are you lonely?

We all need company some time, right?

I’ve cleared away the cigarette butts he dumped in the close.

I’ll maybe knock on your door next time I’m passing?

I’m sorry, I’m doing my best.


You looked fabulous in your hat. I can’t believe you wear your Sunday best even when you don’t go to church.

I saw your white stick, it must have been really difficult for you but the bootees are gorgeous.

How did you know to use pink wool?

I thought the baby was never going to let go of your finger. I can’t believe you watch your TV with the sound off so as not to wake her.

I’ll bring my laptop down, we can Skype your son in Canada,

Did I tell you he’s moving out?

I’m not on my own now though, right?

70 Stories is an online project curated by the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival to mark the 70th anniversary of the Mental Health Foundation. The project connects stories from our Writing Competition, stories from SMHAF participants, and more in a compelling portrait of mental health in 2019.

Keep an eye on mhfestival.com/70stories for new entries in the series. If you are connected in some way to SMHAF or the Mental Health Foundation and would like to contribute a piece of writing to this project, please contact aeaton-lewis@mentalhealth.org.uk.