33 twirls around the cosmic ballroom and still I don't know how to dance feet constantly tripping dress ragged and ripping each spin stripping me down to newborn nakedness and still the tempo increases frantic intervals of familiar scenery like a word repeated to nonsense I will never understand how loss can weigh more than gain but my muscles' tired complaints assure me that this is true so let me lay my head down on your shoulder while I can and maybe this time around we can close our ears to the world let our heartbeats set the measure and dance something new
I started picking at the lock again the one I know I'm not supposed to pick the one I try to forget exists until I find my fingers bloody victims of the tic tick tick tick just need to hear the mechanism click but the keyhole always shifts one moment a beckoning silhouette of an evening off from the kids flickers into likes and follows blink and it's parental approval followed by a dick and then just as quick we're back to stranger's clicks and maybe a sugar fix or the eyes of the friend I haven't seen in years but I keep dreaming thinks of me and oops we're back to dicks and now skinny thighs but nothing fits and yes I've tried the trick with the credit card and one with knives and I'm afraid to go down that road again and so I'll carve myself a key of words and I know it will not work but at least the whittling keeps my fingers from picking what can't be picked @amnotpoetry
depression to-do list:
keep yourself distracted do your CBT be on alert for distortions tune into reality have some self compassion make yourself a tea lock the bathroom door while the kids watch tv prioritize your committments schedule in a break sneak away when daddy's home and walk down to the lake see the violent dancing waves frothing as they crest imagine the water rushing in to fill the hollow in your chest blink away temptation and watch the swallows soar carefully count your breaths as you balance along the shore walk that tightrope line all around the bay see it stretched beneath your feet every single day kiss the kids goodnight get ready for tomorrow journal all your gratitudes into guilts for your sorrow wake with the dawn smile and try your best do it all again eventually there'll be rest write another poem but try hard not to whine tack on a clever ending and everything will turn out fine
Once more the venomous refrain comes to plague my weary brain: I am nothing. I am nothing. I am nothing. But I have found within each poison note lies concealed the antidote: I am I am I am So if upon your ears alight her onerous whispers in the night: You are nothing. You are nothing. You are nothing. Find the truth within the lie and perchance upon your lullaby: You are You are You are @amnotpoetry
You can also find my poetry on Instagram:
Before and After
Before the pandemic I attended community potlucks. I folded my anxiety into a handkerchief, something to fiddle with in my pocket, as I planted the seeds of friendship. After the pandemic the potlucks were cancelled. Some members came out anti-science and my seeds have all failed to yield anything more than broken confidence. Before the pandemic I made my first ever parent friends. We met at the park most mornings, shared meals once a week, and took turns filling oxygen tanks. After the pandemic the housing market got so hot they left the country to cool down. Parks and tanks are left empty now and my lungs are learning to adapt. Before the pandemic we had library and market days. Familiar places, friendly faces, comforting routine and connection. A safety net of welcome and belonging. After the pandemic we found desks, stalls, and smiles vacant. I stretch my anxiety around my neck, a scarf to protect against the chill, and let my husband do the talking. Before the pandemic I didn't have many friends to talk to, but I called my Granny every day. After the pandemic I watched her get sick. Her number doesn't reach her anymore. Before the pandemic panic attacked once or twice a year. After the pandemic it has learned to hunt in packs. Before the pandemic nausea, dizziness and pain meant I was coming down with something. After the pandemic they mean that I am awake. Before the pandemic my husband and I talked about growing old together. After the pandemic he wonders if I'll make it through the week. Before the pandemic I believed in a future. After the pandemic. After the pandemic. When is After the pandemic? Before the pandemic there was no Before or After. Before the pandemic I didn't need to wait for an ending to begin. Before the pandemic is gone. And all we have to work with is now. At least that much hasn't changed.
If you want to check out the visual version of this poem and a lot of other poems that haven’t made it on the blog yet, make sure to check out my Instagram account @amnotpoetry.
Mid-autumn shrinking of days:
waves of midnight blue
lapping an island of grey cloud.
I watch their constant approach
and retreat, and think of how
my Granny used to call them the
longest days of the year.
To wake in the time-shrouding
darkness and not to know
whether you’ve slept early or late,
to pass the hours in a smothering
dimness that seems to seep
into the tiniest crack and expand
so that every interaction,
every experience, is muffled and flat.
I pretend this embrace is a comfort,
isolation an inspiration, but it is not.
I want to make beautiful things,
to weave words into brightness
that can outshine the fog,
cleave the day in two the way
my Granny’s phone calls used to.
Yet here I am complaining
about the weather because
the days are just too short.
Or maybe they’re too long.
Or maybe my Granny was wrong
and the days aren’t longer or shorter,
but heavier, so that even though
we carry them the same distance,
we are consumed in the effort.
And her calls made them so much
lighter because, for a while,
I didn’t have to carry them alone.
My every day is balanced
on the knife point
Tonight I lost my voice,
my words refusing to file
neatly in line,
rushing so quickly
that they caught in my throat,
my breath trampled beneath them.
My husband found me
on the floor
drowning in a scream
so vast that it left me
I am not okay.
Life is a trap:
just when I think
I’ve got the knack
of shrinking myself
a little bit smaller,
the walls close in
a little bit tighter.
And maybe the daylight
will make things look
a little bit brighter,
a little bit wider,
but I am not ready
to surrender today
to get to tomorrow.
So I guess this is me
tearing up my white flag,
with the words that sought
to suffocate me:
I am not okay.
I am tired.
I am angry.
I am grieving.
I am afraid of tomorrow.
But tomorrow will come.
I think I am ready now.
I am here.
So I’ve been on hiatus for… a while.
I wasn’t okay.
But I’m mostly okay now.
I’ve had depression and anxiety for a very long time, but there’s always been a good reason to push it aside. To tell myself that I’ll be alright as long as I keep moving. That I don’t need help. That it’s “normal.” That I can handle it.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who has had those beliefs shattered in the past year. My existential crises suddenly found themselves with some very real material, and my coping mechanisms — social events, going out by myself, getting someone to watch the kids — went flying out the window.
To be honest, it didn’t feel like what I was experiencing was even related to the pandemic, and in some ways it wasn’t — my mental health wasn’t great to begin with after all — but whether I acknowledged the pressure bearing down on me or not, it was still there. In the way I couldn’t take my children to the park or to the grocery store. In the way I hadn’t been away from them for more than half an hour in several months. In the masks I saw hanging from rear-view mirrors as I walked down the street. In the way that walking those streets had become a sick strategy game — weaving back and forth or meandering blocks out of the way so that I didn’t have to go within two metres of anyone else.
I felt it in my core even if I didn’t acknowledge it. I stopped doing anything. I stopped being anything. I wanted to just stop altogether.
So I got help. For the first time. And just… thank God. Why the hell didn’t I do this sooner?
Please, whether it’s been a lifelong thing or it’s a new thing… if you feel empty, overly anxious, meaningless, like your entire self is about to implode… tell someone. Preferably your doctor. Look for community resources if you don’t have access to paid therapy and can’t afford it. Online therapy. Just, ask for help. I promise you deserve it. (For the record I signed up for a government-funded online therapy clinic and used a free CBT app called Woebot while I was waitlisted.)
And if you are in crisis, please call a crisis support line or stop by your emergency department. Your life matters and I swear you are strong enough to get through this. You just haven’t been given the tools yet. You’ve been climbing a mountain with your bare hands and you’ve still gotten this far. Imagine where you’d get if someone gave you some climbing equipment (and taught you how to use it).
Anyway. Therapy and mental health supports aside (but seriously, access them if you think you need them), I thought it was about time for an update.
Even before the pandemic, I was really struggling with my creativity. Not so much a writer’s block, just a lack of passion for… well… anything. Writing included. This of course, caused extra anxiety as I thought to myself… will I ever be creative again? Will I ever feel again? Despite the way we romanticize mental illness, that poetic melancholy or artistic moodiness, it is NOT conducive to creativity. I am a much better (and definitely productive) creator when I am mentally well.
While I was recovering, and within the pressures of parenting during a pandemic, the only thing I’ve consistently found time for has been poetry. It’s short, I can write and edit it on my phone, and it’s cathartic as hell. I’ve actually started a poetry Instagram with the tag @amnotpoetry. You can see the feed over there —>
I’ll do some poetry posts to update any new ones to the site and file them under the Poetry section up there. ^
I also quit twitter for now, because who needs that negativity?
As for what comes next… well, I’m trying to take it easy for now in terms of setting goals, but I AM working on a few stories again. I’d also still like to work on finishing the voice recordings of Ganymede, but ultimately that comes down to finding a period of time and a space where I can consistently create a quiet enough environment. Worst case, it’ll happen as restrictions from the pandemic ease off and I can book a space. The focus right now is on creation, and eventually the debate of going the webfiction route again, or trying for traditional publishing. But that is a ways off (though I’d love to hear what you think!)
I’ll try to do more consistent blog posts. I have one mostly written already about media that’s kept me sane and helped me deal with my depression over the past year. Books, podcasts, video games, etc. So stay tuned.
Anyway, I’m back. It’ll take some time for me to fall into a regular habit of posting, but for now, I am just so ecstatic to be creating again. I hope everyone out there is doing alright and taking care of themselves as best they can. It’s okay to take a break, sometimes just getting through the day is enough. We’ve got this, one day at a time.
A Conversation (Hyperlink Poem)
(Click each blue response to see the truth.)
I give so much of my love away
that I forget to leave any
I give so much of myself away
that I become a walking
only by the space
of where other people are not.
I have no one to give to
and in that freedom I expand
that I lose
I cannot remember who I am
only all of the things I should do
and all of the things I have failed to do.
I make lists about myself
so that I cannot forget:
what I’ve done,
what I like,
what I want.
I look at those lists
where that person went.
I am certain
that some crucial part of me
taking with it:
I want to be struck by lightning —
not to die,
but on the off chance
that I might reanimate.
Or at least
feel that rush of electricity
down my spine.
I can pretend that I’m okay,
end this on a note about
I give so much of my love away
that I forget to leave any
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash