Open the Can of Worms by Tracey Farrell


The poem is attributed to Tracey Farrell from Hidden Treasure Therapy.


I heard you talking as I was walking
by your open door
Telling each other to
stick to the presenting issue,
Don’t go opening a can of worms
keep to our core
Let’s do this on our terms
Yet you dont realize that this can of worms
That you don’t want to open
Stays stuck inside of me
wriggling and squirming,
gnawing and chewing
Eating away at my insides
with each toxic bite,
until I learn to fight and show my might
through snide words and worse
Or worse still, till I have no fight left,
no will to live,
no reason at all
And I wonder
Do you remember my name
That I told you my dad
died by suicide when I was five?
Do you smile when you see me, or roll your eyes?
That dread you feel as you
answer your phone
and the receptionist says in that tone,
the one reserved by people
like her for people like me
“it’s her…again”
“Give me ten”, you sigh
and then wonder why
I scream at her and hang up,
not just the phone but this time
my never to return sign.
So my appointment arrives and I don’t arrive,
and you note with rising glee
a DNA or an FTA on that file of my life.
I wonder what might happen
if instead of that being attributed to me,
it was attributed to you.
What would you do?
If that failure to attend meant
You failed to attend
to trauma informed practices
that might have made the difference
and if i didn’t have to pretend
to care about your therapy
With their cute little acronyms
ACT,  CBT, and DBT
All the letters except M and E
I want you to see me…work well with me,
and open that can of worms
Not to watch you squirm but to help me see
That I am not rotten,
That my ‘mental illness’ and my addictions
Are just a symptoms of trauma not forgotten
My body, it remembers
Even when my mind can’t join the dots
From a to b and to c
It’s your way, or the highway
With your policies full of risk adversity
That trump the ones about trauma
And make me jump
Through hoops made of government red tape
Believe me
I know it’s not just you, it’s the whole system
I don’t expect
Blue tights and a cape
You don’t have to save me
But it would help if you’d see me
Through a lens of understanding
And take time to develop
Built on trust
so that when you do what you must
The scales might tip
Towards me being supported and vindicated
And you could ask and respond,
rather than tell and react
So that I can learn to ask
for what I need and respond
with my truth rather than tell you
what I think you want to hear
and to stop me reacting from my Trauma,
so far out my Window of Tolerance
Zero tolerance
Isn’t just a poster on a wall
Warning me that you require safety
It’s how You and I feel about
My sadness and pain
no tolerance at all
So it masquerades as rage
And fills the page you write about me
Confirming my non compliance
With the treatment that you do to me
I’m trapped in your paragraph prison
There’s precision in the way you wield that pen
Severing the human parts of me
Without me ever having made a decision
About how it would be
How I wish I could be openly defiant
To ask for what I need
Just open the can of worms
Barriers exist that you can’t even see
They stand rock solid before me
Telling me that no one cares
So when you run late it just confirms
the worm of self-hate
Crawling through my mind
That it is all on your terms
And those terms are clear
You can see my fate
Mood states turned to personality traits
The doctor has ordered
My mind disordered
Borderline, Antisocial….
ain’t so far from the truth
If we’re talking about the mess
That is my social engagement system
shot to pieces by toxic stress
Where rules about my body got broken
By people who said rules shouldn’t get broken
At least not by me
And here I am breaking rules again
Speaking the unspoken,
Asking you to see
That the one tool you need
Is this –
Open the can of worms!
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MITUK’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for fundamentally re-thinking theory and practice in the field of mental health in the UK, and promoting positive change. We believe that the current diagnostically-based paradigm of care has comprehensively failed, and that the future lies in non-medical alternatives which explicitly acknowledge the causal role of social and relational conflicts, abuses, adversities and injustices.


  1. Beautifully and powerfully articulated. not only from the perspective of what happens to a person within the mental health system but on how poetry and being able to clearly describe what’s happening for you/has happened to you, can be healed and full recovery be possible. congrats and good luck and may you triumph over the fools who would steal your life away from you.