A strand of hornets has formed a nest
around my aorta. I am contorted
as they wriggle and writhe,
a malicious mimicry
of the honeybee’s synchrony.
They must perceive me
as an acceptable host;
the most I can do is hope, mouth
agape, that they will vacate
my cardiovascular space,
granting me privacy,
allowing me to move
by willpower alone, on my own
without feeling their medical-needle abdomens
so tediously close to my blood flow.
In the third grade, I had my first stint with mental illness. My only real friend had just moved away, and no one wanted to play with me at recess. I was depressed, big time, and I was also working through grief at the loss of my friend. The stages were evident (retrospectively) in the narratives that went through my head as I tried to sleep. Some nights I would cry. Some nights I would invent stories in which who had abandoned me continued to wrong me; some nights I would scream my anger at her. At eight years old, I would spend some nights thinking seriously about death. But it wasn’t until the next school year that I started to understand that these thoughts were anything out of the ordinary. In the fourth grade, after she saw me hitting myself repeatedly during tests, my teacher sent me to weekly group sessions with the school counselor.
It’s gotten worse since then, but it’s also gotten better since then. My depression comes in waves. The stresses of elementary school, junior high, and high school all took their toll on me. So, too, has the unforgiving coldness of winter, as well as the unrelenting loneliness of summer. Depression is not a constant companion, but it is a consistent companion.
My anxiety, on the other hand, does not come in waves. They aren’t as bad as they could be, and I’m always learning to ways to negotiate with them, but they never leave. Ever. In fact, I’m not totally sure where my anxiety stops and my nervous personality begins. Fretting is ingrained into my very aspect.
I was born an anxious person. I was also born a sad person. That’s sort of my point, my raison d’être: to be anxious and sad. It makes me see things that other people ignore, and it allows me to be introspective. In that, mental illness is what makes me a writer. I’m only an artist because I was wired incorrectly at the factory.
Maybe I should be grateful. Continue reading “Awake”
Emulation of “Loves” by Stephen Dunn.
I fear the suns that have yet to set and wink
their nighttime bruises across my feeble skin–
my eyes, my mouth sealed tombs
before I utter anything monumental.
I fear passivity, consumption
with no effect.
I once sat on a bumblebee
and now fear forces me to pick apart every patch of clovers
before I settle down.
I once settled too deeply into a love
and it stung until I cried, but it never died
and late at night it sneak into my thoughts,
my inbox. I fear her baubles and lures, for their hooks
will snag me if I don’t stay awake;
under those moons, fear is the Siren
singing on the underside of my pillow.
Of all friends, the closest; of all songs,
the most beautiful. I fear the words that feel
like siblings–the horrifying hallelujahs
shuddering in the road, drowning
in the frosty oceans of lamplight.
When I learned how shallow
a puddle must be before becoming a lake,
I feared the fluid in my veins.
I fear love–I fear kisses
and hugs and making promises and passing notes
in class and among friends. I fear the finality
of first and foremost.
What could be more petrifying
than the anticipation of the end?
What monster could rival that phone call?
I fear mediocrity. I fear fate. I fear the unassuming shoes
at the end of my bed, red and unlaced,
a pair of perfect demons, carnivorous, expectant,
their flailing tongues tasting the air,
inhaling my raspy pulse.
You’re behind me.
Thundering feet, yours,
are ready to pounce,
aiming to kill.
I run and run, even though
you never arrive.
In the fourth grade,
we learned about tornadoes.
We learned about the temperature dropping,
the calm before the storm,
Last night the sky was very dark,
and there were frequent,
impressive strokes of purple lightning,
that looked like someone had turned the sun on again,
reverting night back into day.
Last night the wind screamed,
brushing against the car,
where I sat and looked at the sky.
I imagined the sirens going off,
leaving me with nowhere to go,
Last night my dreams were the same thing.
I knew it was there,
but everyone thought I was being paranoid.
They only evacuated at the very last minute.
everyone was pulled up inside of the swirling winds.