EXPECTATIONS

A whole community of us; a whole culture

A drop-in center, network, support groups, community clinic

Psychiatric symptoms so severe; we understand one another

We all knew each other when I was there

Yet, since we aren’t raving, regular people who see us expect

We function as if our symptoms are not severe

Who don’t understand us as we do one another

Grudge against government hand-outs

Which I barely function well enough

To be denied

Barely function

Function well enough

Just well enough

To be shamed by my co-workers’ expectations

That I function better

As if I didn’t have an illness

Not understand

That it is my best and I do have an illness

And so the whole community of us who understand

One another, our culture, our community, our symptoms

“You have an illness;” she said, “You shouldn’t be working.”

POINTLESS QUESTIONS

Whom do I get mad at?

Ordinarily, somebody would pay

What it did to me

What I went through:

–Uncontrollable tears

–Whole week-ends spent in bed sleeping

–Trying to work through sedating meds

–Fighting to live, pay the bills

Someone ought to pay

And I look back

To how I was

What I go through, now

Someone ought to pay

 

Bitter, the capacity to remember

 

And I ask why did it happen to me?

Why

Why did I have to choose between the psych-ward

And a life side-effected into dragging

A sluggish body and thick mind all over

Bad work-days that barely eke out

My existence

 

God only knows

 

Then, I ask again

What did I lose in it all?

Was it but imagination’s fabrication of an idealism

Of what it is to live, what life is?

Whose life hasn’t been collapsed around?

Incredulous wondering what happened to me

That it would happen to me

That it would happen

What I went through, go through, now

 

For me, it was bipolar disorder, for others

It could be anything, I guess

And demur a list of any number of crushing things that ruin

I conclude my words with a blank to be fulfilled in

 

Then there’s the question of God

NEURO-TRANSMITTERS, THEY THINK

Electric brain synapses neuro-transmitters

Opted me out of ordinary life, consensual truth, opts me out

Sleeping through the whole week-end

Paralysis of will, the psychiatrists call it

Soporific medicines sleepy pills slow my mind

Can’t remember the first Chen Tai-Chi form after five years

My disability doesn’t count

When employers, publishers, governments seek demographic statistics:

Gender, race, orientation, not my disability

But I’m opted out of social norms, structures

By motivation, mood, mentation, medication

CONFESSION:

Try though I do, my career interruptus

Staggering through the world as best I can

As best I have to because despite my disability

No one takes care of you

IT NEVER USED TO BE

Mike noticed me shaking

Playing at an open stage

The way we had in clubs years ago

The legacy of my psychotic episode years ago,

The effects persisting in my involuntary shakes, fear, and incompetence

Brett noticed me shaking

Almost convulsing onstage at the keyboard

It never used to be like that

The ease, the drive I had to perform

Then the caving fear onstage

The lingering apathy that stole

My passion to play hour upon hour at home

Getting better hour upon hour enthralled

Or onstage before crowds

Eager, excited, up

Darryl tried to jam with me last spring

Remembering my former ability

Thinking me as capable as it used to be

It was sad, the attempt, his generosity

One player quenched by bipolar disorder

Likely doesn’t mean much

But it does to me

SILENT LOSS

I suffer

Silently

Proficiency stolen

Asleep for years

Bipolar Disorder

My friends don’t want to hear

Why I am this way

 

I am waking up

Only to see what I’ve lost

I try to explain

To deaf ears

Try to pick up the pieces

So I suffer

Silently

Remembering

My tragic loss

Only to me

COMING TO TERMS

It’s dawning on me that I will not be able

To reclaim 27 years lost,

The development I could have experienced,

When pills and depression

Robbed me

Of a competence I once had,

Which could have flourished into greater form

No, I can’t reclaim those years

Nor the increased competence I would have gained in those 27 years

I must accept the limitations on

My ability

Sad, or philosophical

I cannot reclaim those years

I may never recover even what I once was

Let alone what I could have become

With 27 years of practice, application, learning

Tragic, the waste, those lost 27 years

Coming to terms with what I am, where I am

The competences I do have, not

Those I don’t have, I could have had

THAT STRANGE SADNESS

My mind returns to the sharpness

I used to have

My will returns to a strength

I used to feel

Subsequent to a med adjustment

And relief from soporific side effects

I feel a strange sadness

As I contemplate the former competence

I used to enjoy

And wonder, at my mature age, whether

To attempt to recapture

My former competence

Or to rest in the memory

Of what I used to be

In that strange sadness

WHAT ONCE WAS, I ONCE WAS

He knew me before my confidence was

Crushed, bravado broken

Before my psychotic episode eroded

The self we both knew

He knew me when I was

Bold, brash, tough, and accomplished

We talked over a few days about good times

Performed a couple simple songs we used to play

He noticed me shaking, heard me fumble a few notes

Didn’t want to hear me narrate

The tragedy my episode was, is still

Doesn’t want to hear about me weak, my weaknesses

I don’t like it either

But as it’s me, I have to live with the narrative

Continue as best I can with

The awareness of what once was

What I once was

25 YEARS

25 years largely lost

Doctors call it avolition

No will even to get up

Sleeping

Days, weekends

Those 25 years could have been:

Practice time

Gigging

Progressing

But . . .

25 years largely lost

 

Mind turned to fog

Memory shot

Which is an end to learning

Thought processes so slow

Which is an end to performance

Where I could have been

But . . .

25 years largely lost

 

I see my friends

Where they’re at

Where I could have been

But . . .

25 years largely lost

 

But then . . .

There’s the soul

“My kingdom is not of this world”

Spirituality

Humility, compassion, neighbor-love

“I do not give to you as the world gives”

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.”

I could have come to worse

25 years of spiritual progress

SEMI-FULFILLED POTENTIALS

Pretty much my whole adult life

I’ve been more or less semi-retired

A full-time undergraduate and grad

Student and the poverty and the freedom

Writing and performing music

Writing and researching papers and theses

Bipolar disorder’s attenuated capacities

Avolition and crippled will to persevere

Those week-ends asleep in bed—

The weekend through: Friday till Monday morning

Those lost weekends

A post-doctoral funk and bad jobs

Part-time teaching and poverty

Writing and publishing a book and journal articles

Music and poetry and bad jobs

A good job preaching, a calling, and full-time pay

Recording a CD of my originals and poetry and newspaper bylines

Volunteer positions and committees and seminar presentations

All for joy and no pay

Pretty much semi-retired and all of it

Previous Older Entries