I’ll start this post by being honest. This month has been a difficult one for me. Every month has been hard, particularly for these past couple of years, but this month has seemed to concentrate my fears and worries and triggers into one thirty day, mind-numbing, heart-pounding experience. We all go through those times, and we each have our own methods of coping with our struggles. My way of coping with the darkness in my mind has always been through writing. I learned at a very young age that books and the written word were there to protect me and make me feel like I had somewhere that I belonged.
Since childhood, I have been drawn deeply into the arts. I have tried almost every art form there is at least once, though I have always found myself drawn back towards the simple power of creating worlds and feelings with words. Though I have written many short stories and outlined a couple of novels, nothing has fulfilled me in those darkest of times as much as poetry. There is magic in a person’s ability to take you from one place or emotion to another in the course of a few lines. I have spent more time pondering simple poems than I have whole novels. The first time I heard “When You Are Old” by W.B Yeats orated I wanted to cry from how deeply a simple few words touched my soul. Yeah, I am a literature nerd, but I know that this experience isn’t mine alone.
With all of the negativity that occurred in my life this past month, I think that it was meant to be that it was also National Poetry Month. Poetry has been my crutch for the last couple of years. Sometimes the depression is just too severe to read a novel or write a short story. Sometimes the only thing there to comfort me has been a couple of lines from a favorite poem, or the sharp pain of a poem stirring inside me. I know that many others have felt the same.
Sometimes I ponder the correlations between all these words and thoughts and feelings in my mind that look so much like art or poetry to me but which also carry the stain of mental illness.
Today, I must decline to follow that train of thought, though I plan to revisit it this coming month. One of the great struggles of having an illness is realizing that sometimes you just can’t do the things that you want to do or feel you should be able to do. Sometimes those things are just out of reach, and you can feel yourself slipping as you continue to stretch yourself outwards, hoping that you can grasp the thing before you tumble into that abyss… One thing that I have had to learn in my life is that self-care is not just a catch-phrase or an excuse to pamper yourself, it’s an absolutely mandatory part of making it through life, particularly as someone who can tend to reach out so far over such a severe drop off into darkness.
I encourage you all to find that thing that makes you happy, or at least safe or grounded, even if it’s in your sadness. For me, it is poetry, because I am sure that no matter what I am feeling, a poet has put that feeling on the page, and the more I read, the closer I am to finding it.
Now I’m off to write another poem.