I was in high school, year nine, when teachers started to wonder about the dark in me. I was eating Sylvia Plath and Lou Reed, collecting pills and scars.
At a school assembly, I read a poem which caused my guidance counselor to call my parents. Back then, I didn’t know words could be a diagnosis. I had no idea words could be a precursor to prescriptions and social workers.
It’s the tale of so many poets’ stories.: Depression. Drug addiction. Suicide attempts. Social anxiety. A walk-on role by Homosexuality.
I heard a writer say, “Good writing doesn’t come from happy childhoods.” But I want to believe that we don’t always need the backstories. Our imaginations are massive enough to create our stories and poems.
When I run out of words, I dig my fingernails into the root of a scar found on forearm, hip, between thighs and rummage around until letters come out. This is a metaphor.
When I run out of words, I go to my bookshelf. Pull out Kate Bornstein. Pull out Vera Pavlova. Lorca. Neruda. Miranda July. Ivan E. Coyote. Audre Lorde. I scratch out their words and sniff the aroma of magic coming through. This is literal.
What it is to write.
I have been diagnosed and hospitalized and “treated” and analyzed and medicated and rehabilitated and tested. The pills gave me dry mouth, increased anxiety, nausea, increased thoughts of suicide, fatigue and irritability.
The side-effects of writing? Awareness, realization, acceptance, ease of overwhelm, validation.
When I tell people I am a poet, they say: better find a day job. I want to explain to them that there are different versions of currency and poetry may not pay my rent, but it keeps me alive. Twenty dollars in my pocket won’t.
There are days I feel as though I am not allowed to call myself a writer. These are the days I fall asleep without a puddle of words at my side. These are the days I feel dry.
And yet to others, I am able to say: Thinking is part of writing, so if you thought today, then you created.
I get lost a lot. I’ve never had GPS at my disposal. I’ve got a flip phone in my pocket (features including only camera, calendar and calculator). So, I often turn away from where I am supposed to be. But maybe humans need to get lost more, in order to feel more found. Maybe more humans should write without disclaimer, without waiting for a place for these words. Let poetry be your diagnosis. Let language and its looseness be your symptoms.
Let ink and paper be your geography. Your map. Then, you’ll be ready for travel.