Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Poetry, Halloween, and Healing

Hello Friends:

It seems like a really strange combination; poetry, Halloween, and healing.  But the triple-point of these topics has been on my mind as October rolls forward. (And I thought it a perfect topic to finally get in on The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse, supported by very friendly blogger Marj aka Thriver on Survivors Can Thrive!  The carnival is being hosted by Tracie of From Tracie.)

I have been a reader and writer of poetry since I was fourteen. Given the, shall we say, 'unsettled' nature of my childhood, I felt I had plenty to write about. So naturally, like many other young people, writing became an avenue to express my inner turmoil, to help me view it more objectively, and eventually, to try to heal.

So why is Halloween in this picture? Two reasons. I have a sort of gothic alter ego who has always loved moonlight, monsters, the sound of dry leaves, and tales of things that go bump in the night. So the first reason Halloween is part of all this is - when I write poetry that comes from a dark place, it has this sort of gothic feel to it. Sometimes it is subtle, and other times not so much. But edgy goth, or even horror-like imagery is how I often express the mess inside. Here is an example; a poem I had published in The Newsletter Inago in 1999. It seemed apt for the 'harvest' time of year.

Missing Seedcorn
Sorrow reaps the harvest
of frustration's seed
as the mirror of each
pool or lake holds something
a little further from the dream.
It was ... what?
Besides, who can remember
the words out of the warm dark,
whispers from night's fertile seed
of cornucopia secrets, now
starving in your barren brain.
Malnourished, stagnant pond;
an early frost has come.
Newsletter Inago, Vol. 19, No. 6, June 1999

Being able to express this sort of inner pain, the sense of a seed losing its potential in neglect, is a healing act. For me, writing poems like this is an act of faith, and one that empowers me to confront my inner darkness. It's a chance to tap into a part of the brain that lies just below the conscious, and to bring forth images that need to be addressed. And might not be addressed any other way.

Okay, so the second reason Halloween makes me think of poetry - it has to do with my recent spate of poem writing in April. April is National Poetry Writing Month, and I chose to write a poem a day to 'celebrate' (or torture myself, depending on your view of that sort of commitment :)  I knew I was going to use art to inspire my poetry, but it quickly became apparent that it wasn't going to be just any art. The art that was inspiring me was quirky, dark, semi-humorous horror art, like the sort created by Tim Burton. This art also has a focus on the fears of children, which played into my own memories, and ended up inspiring about twenty poems about the darker aspects of childhood.

Normally, I don't like to put unpublished poetry in blog posts, since most publishers consider that published or at least it means that "first electronic rights" are already taken. But this post seems like a good cause, so here's a draft of a poem that came from my April poem run.

Pins and Needles
The muslin doll has
X's for eyes and a smile
drawn with black marker.
There is a large hatpin
with a red ball end planted
squarely in the middle of
her forehead.  There is
another in her stomach,
two in the chest, several
in the back and legs, and
just one stabbed through
the right hand.  The doll
doesn't mind except it
makes it hard to walk;
arms straight out, legs
bowed.  She trips a lot,
and when she falls she
always hears screaming.
Copyright Blue Morpho's real person, no touchy

I like the ambiguity, here. Who is screaming? Who is it that is using this apparently even-tempered doll for their voodoo dirty work? It makes me sad - literally in the poem the doll falls, driving the pins deeper, and causing pain to the target of the voodoo - yet just the image of someone screaming at a child when it falls, instead of feeling sympathy, really tweaks me. I like the idea that the doll is a metaphor both for the neglected child, and the act of the child seeking revenge. She causes pain to those who have hurt her, but note that in the process, she hurts herself.

It is in this that I find some healing. This reaffirms my growing commitment to not become the thing I hate. To not become the same bitter, depressed, self-absorbed, self-hating, mangled thing that caused my neglect, abuse, and subsequent mental illnesses in the first place. I may want to find ways to enact my revenge fantasies, but I have to realize that getting too caught up with that is not healthy. When I use those pins, it's me I'm hurting.

So what are your feelings on this? Does this dark aspect of poetry appeal to you? Do you find any catharsis in the creepy Halloween season? Read any Poe recently?

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: Happy Pumpkin by Dave Hogg on Flickr via Creative Commons, CC 2.0

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Continuing Improvements in Sanity

Hello Friends:

When you don't know what to blog about, time to head on over to The Sanity Score and see what your latest numbers are. As I've mentioned before (see post in April, Apparently I'm Getting More Sane) I occasionally take the sanity test at PsychCentral just for jollies. Okay, not just for jollies. I take it because even though it isn't a terribly scientific instrument, it does provide something of a benchmark for changes over time. And because I love online quizzes.

And because now that I've taken the quiz three times over the last year, I now have enough data to make a graph. God I love data.

So I took the test the first time in December of last year, then about 4 months later, and then another seven months after that. The data is pretty interesting to me. It would suggest I feel better overall since December '09. And I do feel better - maybe not quite as much as this shows here, but still, it is consistent. (Remember, low numbers are good. And again, not all the subscores are on my graph, just the ones that I thought were most interesting.)

So my Depression score didn't move much, not a surprise, since it dropped a lot in April. But my Anxiety score plummeted from 48 (reflecting a major problem) to 27 (reflecting a moderate to minor problem). I don't think this is really shows how I feel. I feel less anxious, but not quite this much. So I predict the next time I take the test it won't move, or maybe will even be higher. Still, it is an improvement.

I left the Dissociation score in to bring up another point about the test. Just like the Phobia questions, the Dissociation questions don't seem to be written very well. I definitely suffer dissociation whenever I have a flashback triggered, and it is bizarre and uncomfortable. But that symptom does not seem to be captured here very well. I'll note my PTSD score hasn't moved, and still indicates one of my major issues. So perhaps some of the dissociation is represented there. Hard to say.

So my average overall score is now 55.  Fifty-five is definitely a sane person (a person with issues, but still a sane person).  As I said before, this is starting to look like I have the "resilience, skills, and resources to cope and manage." Odd. But I do almost feel like that. Almost. I do feel more capable, more in control, and less overwhelmed. I hate myself a little less, as reflected by the Self Esteem score, yet self esteem is still one of my major problems. And it is one of the areas which there as been the least amount of change. I will hazard to say that many of the other areas for sub-scores relate to symptoms, and that Self Esteem is more of a core issue. If I can see some improvement there, I might actually believe this isn't just an interim period between major depressions, but instead a real change in my worldview.

As I said in my previous post, "I continue to bemoan the fact that I did not take the test when I was at my worst." Naturally, I hope I never feel that way again. But if I do, I will try to see the bright side of it - that'll be some really good data.

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info:  Wishing by pinksherbert on Flikr via Creative Commons, CC2.0

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