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Writing About Mental Illness

Bipolar I

When I feel good,

the world is gold

and my heart beats glitter.


This poem eeked out of me during my recent eight day stay at Pine Rest psychiatric hospital. It was not my first visit and I am pretty sure it won’t be my last either. Such is the life for the sufferer of Bipolar I disorder. I have not suffered my whole life although I am confident that my DNA lay written and waiting from birth.


The short verse alludes to the short frame of time our culture names normal. These moments are usually far between long expanses of the extreme moods of mania and depression. If I’m lucky, like last time, I might get a year. A year of gold! But like the rainbow, it always fades just as soon as you’ve thought you found the pot of gold. Shenanigans!


Locked in among crack and heroin addicts, the word normal didn’t occur to me. Normal people don’t hear voices telling them to kill themselves. Recovery is a strange jewel of a journey. First, you grab the stick poking out of sea that leads to help. If you were drowning, you would try to save yourself, right? That is assuming a lot of yourself. May you never find out. Then, you wander to the ends of yourself trying to set borders on your personality. Create a judge and jury to define your own behavior. Bend the environment so far it nearly breaks apart so that a livable habitat forms in the vacuous space of life. Repeat many times until death keeps you.


I once spent the day lying still on my bed for fear that I would tear all the hair out of my scalp if I moved. This was during the same landslide mania that caused me to leave my husband, flunk out of school, and get so drunk I used to throw up in bars. So drunk that I would go to the bathroom, throw up, and return to the dancefloor like nothing happened. Nothing in life prepares you for the diversions that result from this disease or the consequences that must be faced in the wake of an episode. Each time, it is like starting from zero.


The poems that I have written about my disorder all seem to fall a little short of telling the tale. I am convinced that there are no words to adequately describe the mind’s intense workings. And yet, I try to convey my experience because it helps my recovery and also, because I want people to know what it’s like to live like this. It’s not a plug for sympathy but rather a call for compassion. Why is it that when you go to the hospital for psychiatric reasons, you don’t get any cards or flowers? I’m just saying that I would like to get well soon, too!


The journal, The Awakenings Review, publishes work by those suffering from mental illness, their families, and medical professionals who care for the mentally ill. Copies can be ordered from the web address: http://www.awakeningsproject.org/AR/archive.shtml. The non-profit publication showcases a wide array of work from all over the world. In doing so, it celebrates the lives of people affected by mental illness and displays the brilliant writing that can be born from such darkness.


Somehow, fumbling with only a pen and paper, we can nail it down. Take a wretched trial of life and turn it into something new.

About missyrogers

Lifelong Michigander, early 40s, craft addict, chihuahua collector, coffee drinker, recovering human being, bipolar I, electronic music lover, bullshit caller, 5' tall, my blood is organic, and I refuse to be anything else. I will write until I die.


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