The Writing Of

Come closer, whispers Madness

The walk from the commuter parking lot to the science building took about five minutes. That day, I was on my way to physics, but I wasn’t thinking about the day’s lesson. I wasn’t thinking about anything really. I was listening.

Come closer, whispers Madness, from the darkness of my mind.

The beginning of a verse was building itself while I walked, springing into being with the rhythm of my steps. I had to capture it! I was early for class, the room wasn’t open yet, so I sat outside the door and pulled out my notebook. The rest started to flow. I scribbled as fast as I could; even so, I didn’t finish before it was time to go in. I ended up missing a good chunk of the lecture.

I was in a great mood the rest of the day! I loved this poem. Loved it! It was elated that it had come to me, through me. Then I showed it to my husband and his reaction was…well, less enthusiastic. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t feel the same joy I did.

Poetry. It does that.

This poem didn’t scare me. I wasn’t feeling any of those things while I wrote it. And it went so far beyond me—it was about generations of family members who have suffered with depression, anxiety, bi-polar, schizophrenia, addiction…pick a mental illness, it’s probably in there somewhere. It felt good to have something to point to and say, “This. This is it when it’s really bad.” It gave rhythm and shape to those shadows, letting me experience them without the fear that I would be lost in them forever. They were outside me now. I could hold onto them, see them from different angles, sing them back at themselves.

My shadow is depression. It’s not misty and gray; it’s sticky and black. A thick tar, not a passing cloud. It has weight and a gravity of its own. No color, no melody, no light penetrates it. And yet, it doesn’t stop me from functioning. I do what needs to be done, it just feels like I’m wearing a lead suit while I do it. It’s not always present, but when it is…I don’t talk about it a lot. I’ve learned that most people really don’t want you to show them your goo. They know it’s there and politely refuse to comment on it. (There’s really nothing they could say.)

So…I write. Journals, poems, bits and pieces of larger works. And every once in a while, I get to write something like Madness, and that makes me smile.

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