and the wolves won’t stop howling
and you aren’t here –
but your scent traces the windowpane
resisting the onslaught of another southeaster
you stay –
and i can’t help but breathe you in
lungs languishing in loving revolt
against the invasion of oxygen in the midst of this souvenir
you left behind –
while i lie here breathing you in
heart folding gently around some small token of sin
symbolizing the movement from sand to castle
you built –
but the foundation’s worn thin
and the crow is drawing near
I don’t want to die
most of the time the instinct to survive keeps me alive
but I feel like I am dead already
my heart no longer counts the beats
to the funerary ballad my lungs are composing
my breasts no longer sing
my veins are desiccated
a soft film covers my eyes
vignette at dusk
my shoulders are calloused
from months of heavy lifting
years fermenting in the yard
and a crack in my spine from one too many
my legs carry my weight
if there’s any left of it
but they don’t know where they’re going
and my feet have lost all sense of direction
there’s a metaphor in here somewhere
my cheeks rustle like paper through autumn
and through the uncomfortable grain of spring
at the edge of it all there it sits:
one tiny hairline fracture
cleave me open at dawn
my stomach is a rotten pomegranate
left in the damp too long
my small intestines are sunburnt
entangled in the decomposing pulp of my liver
ruined by decades of medications
cycle after unstable cycle
and I have to ask myself:
is this really a life worth living?
is a lot like sleep paralysis
there’s a demon at the door
shape black raw macabre shadow
it’s been there for hours-months-years-ever
and you know it’s not real
but it’s right fucking there
lets you struggle and strain against
invisible chords keeping you motionless
almost even breathless
as you try to say something
that will convince the beast to go away
makes you think that it’s you
who’s not strong enough to fight back
shrug it off
who’s the one that’s really dangerous here you bloody you
who opened the door for the lictor
and didn’t close it behind him
grabs you by the ovaries and twists
while you fold in halves disgracefully
an origami swan
without the wings
braids the most poignant tragedy with
your fallopian tubes
leaving you barren
but for one thing: I will wake up.
I’m on a suicide mission to space
and there’s only seven seconds to lift-off
the coins in my back pocket sing
we will meet the milky way on mars
these are the things I will remember you by
even when I have forgotten myself
I nailed myself to the wall to withstand
the urge to keep my feet on the floor
in this moment I weep for you
carrying a burgundy burden below me
even though you do not know it
In the sixth second I steel my nerves
in the fifth I fasten my resolve
in the fourth I finally say the words
you cannot and do not want to hear
(though I have heard you whisper them to my shadow)
In the third I see a quasar
built on a hundred years in the sun with you
in the second a carrier pigeon is caught
in the combustion of jet fuel
lost in transmission
Out there it’s complete chaos
but in here nothing has changed
in the first second my knees buckle
under the pressure of a thousand heartaches
and I secretly hope you will catch me
Then a last great shake
as I take my place
among the most distant of them all.
You never think that you would find yourself in a psychiatric hospital. Today is day two. I stand in line to get my long list of medications in the morning and evening. They take my phone by 10pm. They take my blood pressure twice daily. I am relieved that the walls are painted a pleasant earthy colour, and that the throw on my bed is a soft and loving shade of blue – the kind that I like – and not some stark orange or red. I’m starting to feel at home.
How I got here is not that important. That I am here now and that there are other people who are also genuinely trying to get better is what gets me through the days. Every single person in this place understands the relentless pain rooted in something so deeply hidden that you can’t access it even if you tried. Everyone knows that sometimes it hurts because you are empty. That you feel useless, worthless, insignificant, a burden to your friends and family. We all know the words to say to each other to lighten the load, even though none of us have internalised them. We try. I try.
I have already and am continuing to write about what brought me here, what is happening to my brain and my body while I’m in here, and how things are changing. Dispatches from Crazytown* is my experiment at documenting mental illness, treatment, and recovery. I am not crazy. Nobody in here is crazy. You could walk past any of us on the street and not know that we had been in a psychiatric hospital, because there is nothing wrong with us. We are human, and we deserve to be loved. If you have a friend struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety or any mental health condition, reach out. Go visit them in hospital. Make sure they know you don’t give a shit how crazy they may seem, you’ll always be there.
*Crazytown is my brain, so named because it moves in a self-repeating loop on several different levels at all times.
Falling in and out of depressive episodes is like slipping down a muddy slope. You know it’s happening, so you try to gain a foothold, grasping at blades of grass in a misguided attempt to pull yourself up. Instead you break an ankle and tear half the foliage down with you, ending up in a muddy puddle at the bottom of fucked creek. It’s cold and you can’t get up, and then a cow shits on your face. So you slither around in the mud half-heartedly calling for help, even though you get the distinct feeling that there’s no one around to save you, until eventually the clouds buckle under their own pressure and you finally get a chance to wipe the gunk from your eyes and enjoy the view of the valley from up here. That’s when you realise you’re not at the bottom of a ditch but on a terrace farm, only it’s badly planned and you have only half a meter between you and another bad break-up.
Maybe today you crawl 500 meters before you meet the farmer, who helps you get to town on his donkey, Kong. Maybe you rest a while in the rain. Maybe you lose your footing and end up a slope or two down. Maybe you take in the landscape and decide to swan dive as you watch it burn. I don’t know how this story ends. It’s raining and there’s cowshit everywhere.
a billion microscopic particles of light bouncing
simultaneously off my skin and that of my doppelgänger
end up finally cascading through my retina.
the enemy is at the door.
it is dressed as that natural ally of the sort of men
who read people like they read books
that they will put away on a shelf forty pages in
: featureless and anodyne it watches me
as i go through my ritual ekdysis
and am for a while naked.
it lifts eyebrows at the state i’m in girl, your arms are way too thin and your shoulders so slumped, stand up straight!
and now i see my little ribs
carve their way down into charybdis
and then rip the whole thing outwards and upwards
revealing themselves as treacherous scylla.
i try to intervene in this never-ending war
but my heart has the final say
and i am defeated by her and her army –
who surely cannot be enough to protect her
looking as short as they do, and half-limp too.
there on the collarbone is a nice line
quite defined on which my greatest crime
sits beckoning. it is a circus up here
but they welcome me as one of them
until my gaze falls to see brazil get consumed
by a tribe of amazonian women
who have no need of men –
or have forgotten why we keep them around.
from behind their ranks a siren
screams in protest and causes an uprising
that reaches all the way to my thighs
from whence i see my feet –
immovable as they are –
find their footing in the same grotesque way
as the eagle grips its prey.
then I breathe it all in from my hip bones
to my chin and watch me
surrender under the onslaught of
a billion microscopic particles of light.
Where do you draw the line, they say.
This is where I draw the line.
You don’t call,
so I don’t call.
You don’t text,
so I don’t text.
You never looked me in the eye
so why should my coffee be stained
by the storm that is always brewing in yours?
You crossed the line
when every interaction became a reaction
a filthy spade
carrying the bones of our shared past.
The sluggish dismemberment of nearly a decade
clings to your violent silence,
uncanny and brutally beautiful.
In the shared sorrow of losing something old –
set adrift aeons apart
as though it were not one thing
but two –
blossoms a red space for something or somewhere new.
Articulated more fully by carefully curated spikes of rage
boxes of polaroid patriarchy delineate the passage
from snow white to the darkest tundra
a revenge march rent asunder.
And as the great beast spreads her wings to draw
that final breath before casting off
a graceful arc from thesis to synthesis
to savage antithesis and back again
the uncomfortable ease of quietude grips us
and we sink ever more deeply
into the ebb and flow of this jagged and broken age.