Thursday, March 26, 2015

Mind Storm



some days come heavy
thick with storm
wrapping around me
a straight jacket
a vice grip
crushing weight
life sits
on my chest

breathless being
i crawl through moments
among the living
cracked edge of a smile
over my coffee

a master of disguise
i cloak my complete unhinging
in a friendly hello
hope you are well
oh let's do
give me a call

i am a wounded animal
unseen
itching to retreat
clamoring to
claw my way out or
tunnel into the deep hole
of my heart
dissolved into dark

 i wait trembling
choked and heaving
riding out the storm
of who i am
until by grace
the world leaves me to
the sweet night

i retire
curling in
my body a question mark
asking into the days end

what will become of me?

i recall a prayer

do not fight the dark
just turn on the light

i know one thing about light
it returns

This poem is an attempt to articulate what a day of high anxiety and depression feels like for me.

I have written and shared before about my decades of struggle as a person living with mental illness.
I have done so much work and have made great strides, but I will never be "cured", at least not given where we stand now in the treatment of mental disorders. I survive, and I do thrive. I have periods of ease and cycles of suffering. My anxiety and depression can flare up on any given day and stay for an indeterminate amount of time. I have learned how to cope, how to function, and how to care for myself. Unfortunately, I have also found it necessary to learn how to mask and hide so I can be in and participate in "normal" society.

I know there are many people like me. I can almost guarantee you know at least one person who suffers from some form of mental health issue or brain difference, and you very well might have no idea. Many of us smile through our agonizing mind storms, because we know we won't be understood, and judgment on top of the already heavy burden we carry is just too much to risk. It hurts too much.

I count myself a million times blessed, because I have had key helpers show up for me at the right times. I have been fortunate to find a spiritual practice and community that embraces me exactly as I am. I have had good therapists, coaches, teachers, friends and family. I have also had the courage to say yes to these helpers. Saying yes to the help is scary in a way, because what if it doesn't work? Then what? I said yes, and it has helped. I still have bad days like the one described in the poem, but I have resources and tools to help me get through. Things can get really dark and hopeless when the storm is moving through, but I know now that I can ride out the storm, and I have people who will hold my hand and wait with me. It didn't always feel that way. There were years when the darkness seemed endless and all consuming. A ray of light was, at times, a fiction to me.

There are people around us who feel that way right now. What we can do for each other is simple, be there. Show the people around us that we do care, and we aren't going anywhere. We can be good friends and neighbors. We can live from our hearts and be that ray of light for those around us. We can pay attention and learn how to really listen. If we learn to really listen to people, we are more likely to notice when they might be feeling down or not quite themselves, and then we can offer to help. If we don't feel equipped to help , we can offer to assist in getting our friends to the help they need.

You don't need to understand what mental health issues feel like exactly. Unless you are suffering yourself, it can't totally be known, but you can have open ears, an open mind, an open heart, and often, what we need most is a pair of open arms.

If you are reading this and you feel in the dark and all alone, you are not alone. Reach out, and keep reaching until you find a hand, there will be one.

I know one thing about light, it returns.

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