Writing with a Mental Illness

Lately I’ve been asking myself two questions:

  1. Why can’t I get in to see a doctor sooner?

And

  1. How does my mental illness affect my writing?

I usually ask these questions from my bed, staring out my window at the leaves turning up their bellies from a strong wind. I’ve been having a bit of a hard time pals, and it affects my writing exponentially. However, I’ve been reading from a collection of poems by and about physical disabilities recommended by Lytton titled, Beauty is a Verb. I’ve been finding a lot of solace in the book and I’m starting to understand ways in which disability can become generative for writing and translating the world uniquely into poetry. For instance, I found a lot of hope in an essay by Alex Lemon, “And Now I See” in which he describes developing nystagmus and double-vision after a brain surgery. He writes, “But as I’ve learned to accept this changed body, I’ve realized that visual changes have played a significant role in my poetic development. They’ve destabilized me, helped me embrace the unruliness of the world and accelerated the broadening of my imagination. Without sight, I felt the world had become an unknowable place. But the idea that I knew the world because I could see it was an illusion—an illusion of control. This destabilization was bewildering and beautiful and pivotal. The act of tearing everything down helped me become more open to the possibility of everything, and that openness is a crucial element of writing.”

 

As someone suffering from mental illness and waiting for the doctors to diagnose me and prescribe me this is helpful for a number of reasons. Lemon uses his disability to uniquely shape the images in his poetry and in reading this, I felt that I could do something similar. It’s harder because if I was being honest I would say that the biggest way my mental illness shapes my writing is by keeping me from it. Day after day I feel as though I approach my journal or my laptop with a motivation that is being locked away and sometimes this causes intrusive thoughts and I tend to react emotionally or sometimes I fall into a dissociative state in which I feel like my memories are imagined and makes it difficult for my mind to sort out what I want to write. As I continue to read this book which is focused on disability writing and or language and how disabilities can affect the poetics, I will be keeping in mind a few questions for myself and my writing:

 

Do I have or need a sort of language to match my life experience with a mental illness?

What kind of writing helps me cope with my mental illness?

What are some mechanisms I can use to keep myself writing when my mental illness makes me feel I am an imposter?

What truths, if any, about the world have I learned that I feel are directly connected with the way my mental illness affects my life and how can I share them in my poetry?

More to come, folks.

Reliving Trauma

During my Great Day presentation, someone asked me an interesting question that I wanted to pose to the rest of the poetry community:

“Do you feel you are reliving your trauma by reading past poems you’ve written about it?”

I was caught a bit off guard by this question because I’ve never thought about the concept. A therapist I work with once mention that she was confused as to why a client of hers would talk about sexual trauma during a group because talking about it was reliving it. I disagree with this, and I disagree with the idea of someone reliving their trauma by writing about it. Yes, I’m sure someone can be triggered by reading about trauma similar to their own, but the idea of not being allowed to talk about it because talking or writing about it is reliving it… that just sounds like so many different types of wrong to me. Writing and talking through trauma is processing it. Yes, processing is hard. But what is the alternative?

In terms of being triggered by your own work… I didn’t have an answer because I’ve never thought about it from either my or someone else’s POV. I suppose it is possible, but I’d image some aspect of the poem has already been processed before being put on paper, at least enough to allow the person to sit down and open up about it.

It was an interesting question, and I really wasn’t sure what to say in response to it. So if anyone wants to give their input, feel free.

Mythological Perspectives

Before I learned that I could write stories, there was a certain type of genre, if that’s what you would call it, that I was drawn to: Mythology. I was always encapsulated by the idea of gods, monsters, and heroes. The stories woven through mythology were always intricate and fascinating, as an ancient culture wove their own origin stories as to why the world was the way it was. The gods weren’t flawless; many of them had many flaws that led to mistakes and deaths. Heroes faced daunting challenges and didn’t always escape unscathed. Although women were looked down upon in most ancient societies, goddesses were often warriors and figureheads. Even average citizens made mistakes and some were granted blessings for their actions.

Many of the figures of mythology provide interesting perspectives. For example, there is the story of Icarus, whose pride led to his downfall. However, with every story, there could be another way of looking at what happened. Medusa, the snake-haired gorgon from Greek Mythology, has a story of how she became a monstrosity. Because she had an affair with Poseidon in Athena’s temple, Athena cursed her to turn away all men with her stony gaze. However, some people read the story in a different manner. Some people read the tale as Athena blessing Medusa after she was raped by Poseidon in her temple. There is an article written discussing this idea, and I’ll put the link at the end of the post. The story of Medusa changes completely when different perspectives are taken in.

Another popular figure of Greek mythology is the tale of Persephone. This story has become the plot for many young adult novels, and while interesting, there are different interpretations. Some people write that Persephone chose to leave with Hades, others that she was abducted, and more recent works place emphasis on Persephone’s own power. One poem that wrote Persephone with emphasis on her power was Daniella Michellani’s “Persephone Speaks” as found on her Tumblr account daniellamichellani:

“I asked him for it.
For the blood, for the rust,
for the sin.
I didn’t want the pearls other girls talked about,
or the fine marble of palaces,
or even the roses in the mouth of servants.
I wanted pomegranates—
I wanted darkness,
I wanted him.
So I grabbed my king and ran away
to a land of death,
where I reigned and people whispered
that I’d been dragged.
I’ll tell you I’ve changed. I’ll tell you,
the red on my lips isn’t wine.
I hope you’ve heard of horns,
but that isn’t half of it. Out of an entire kingdom
he kneels only to me,
calls me Queen, calls me Mercy.
Mama, Mama, I hope you get this.
Know the bed is warm and our hearts are cold,
know never have I been better
than when I am here.
Do not send flowers,
we’ll throw them in the river.
‘Flowers are for the dead’, ‘least that’s what
the mortals say.
I’ll come back when he bores me,
but Mama,
not today.
— Daniella Michalleni, “Persephone Speaks”
In the end, Persephone was made out to be a dark queen which I thought was a really cool interpretation of the poem, and seeing as there are many perspectives myths can be seen from, they provide really cool sources for writing.
Here’s the link for the Medusa alternative analysis website:
https://aryayogi.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/a-yogic-perspective-to-the-medusa-myth/

Lyrical, Part 2

Lyrical, Part 1 listed some of my favorite lyrics and the artists who sang them. Song lyrics often reflect what we, as people, connect with and what we feel. My English teacher in 12th Grade had us do an exercise in Creative Writing Class where we found the lines we liked most in songs and the poems we read in class and put them all together into a single poem.

Looking back, I think this is a very interesting exercise, especially seeing as it consists of found poetry. All the sources would probably have to be credited and whatnot, but even if it was just the ideas taken from the lines and how they would connect altogether. The way he thought of it was a way to get us thinking about how the lines of completely unrelated works could create an individual story and it inspired us to think in new ways. I’ve tried once, and while it was time consuming, it was ultimately something that stimulated ideas. It was an activity that helped me to look at writing as a puzzle rather than something to simply be written. I had to think of how the lines could lead into each other and how they would sound together and where lines could be cut and pieced together.

 

Lyrical, Part I

I realized that in one of my initial posts about inspiration, I listed song lyrics as sources of inspiration. Seeing that I never really went into this, I decided to devote a blog post about it. Many people connect with music, and when you look at the lyrics, many of them could serve as poems in and of themselves. One of the main differences is that songs repeat more often than poems and have a beat that they are read to. That being said, metered poems have a certain rhythm to them that many people overlook.

While songs have many lyrics that allow for emotional connections, sometimes there are just fragments of lyrics that are awesome in and of themselves. Here are some lyrics that I like:

FFDP’s Coming Down: “It’s caving in around me/ What I thought was solid ground/ I tried to look the other way/ But I couldn’t turn around”, “You pull me under/ To save yourself”

Jon Bellion’s Guillotine: “There’s bones in my closet, but you hang stuff anyway”, “I know that you love me, love me/ Even when I lose my head”

Set It Off’s Why Worry: “Sick of hearing this hakuna matata motto/ From people who won the lotto/ We’re not that lucky”

Panic! at the Disco’s Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time: “I’m a scholar and a gentleman/ And I usually don’t fall when I try to stand”, “I’m not as think as you drunk I am”

Often times, our choices in lyrics reflect who we are, what we think about, what we think is funny, and what we find striking. I enjoy seeing what lyrics people connect with most in songs. Are there any lyrics you find striking? Do any of them have ties with your writing, and do any of them inspire writing?

 

Freshmen Snapshot

As I stated in my source showcase and my GREAT Day presentation, I like snapshot moments. I’m an observer over a participator, so I find pleasure in merely taking in the world around me. However, in poetry, I typically struggle with the concrete, seeing as I often get swept away in the emotions I’m feeling and trying to convey. Because this obstacle has been brought to light, I’ve been attempting to incorporate more solid imagery in my poems.

A poem I wrote was included in my GREAT Day presentation, which I called “Freshmen”. In it, I attempted to create a snapshot moment of a memory with my three friends at an event here in school. I wanted to reflect how we were in that moment and how memory sticks. It’s still in its first draft, but this is it:

Freshmen

 

were this moment a polaroid, i would pin it

to the wall with a blue thumbtack, so i could

always look at it and touch it with tender fingertips.

i always want to remember this moment, where we exist

solely as childish 18 year olds who have forgotten that

we are adults and your foot is planted against the hardwood

floor, hand reaching out to grip toby’s shirt as he sprints,

eyes wide in terror, mouth wide, while mitt scowls at you.

you’re making a ruckus and people are looking and i’m trying

not to laugh because then they’ll know i’m with you, but i’m

not sure i care anymore because i’m laughing too hard and this

is what I want to remember when i think of you and toby and mitt

and when i think back to what it was like to be a freshman in college.

What A GREAT Day

GREAT Day, I felt, was a very interesting day to present about poetry and sources as a whole. It was something I’d been dreading for a while, seeing as I had no clue what I was doing and where I wanted to go with what I was thinking. The end result ended up being very different from what I anticipated, but I kind of liked it.

It was a little amusing to arrive at the room I was presenting in and find it full of people watching the science lecture that was on before me. Then, I had about eight people show up to mine. My whole floor had shown support for me, but in the end, it was ultimately two of my closest friends here at Geneseo that showed up. It was really nice to see them and be able to show to them what I am like as a person.

I was a bit uneasy about the source tour, but when I thought about my presentation as a whole, I realized it was a bit of a tour of myself. I’d never really considered how little people really knew of me until then. By showing them what inspired me and what I enjoyed, I was sharing a piece of myself and that in and of itself was refreshing.

I was congratulated in the end by my friends and by Dr. Smith, and one woman congratulated me on the strength of my presentation, declaring that she would be expecting big things from me. I determined that she was a professor I would be having next semester.

In the end, GREAT Day turned out to be an event I kind of enjoyed. I was able to dress up and look presentable, while demonstrating to others what it meant to me to be a writer. It showed how I look at the world and provided options for them to take to their own writing. In the end, it was a pretty great day.

Sorry, I really had to make that joke.

Great Day at the Gazebo!

Hi all,

Today David and I did our Great Day presentation at the Gazebo.  We were supposed to do a “tour” of certain locations on campus, but the weather prevented us from doing this.  Instead, we stayed sheltered beneath the Gazebo where David and I performed our pieces inspired by the campus.  Here is mine:  Continue reading