Monday, October 5, 2009

Dancing With a Ball and Chain

I have the mental illness of depression. It is like a ball and chain around my ankle. When I take the right medication, I can dance with that ball and chain.

I stopped taking the medication. Alcoholics Anonymous has helped free my mind of the ball and chain. Until the last month, I danced.

Then one day I woke up, and the iron ball was chained to my ankle again. I tried to waltz, and I fell down. My head hit the floor. It buzzed like a hive of angry bees.

They called my name from the platform and said I’d won the prize for dancing. I gathered up that ball and chain and limped up to the podium. I took that prize with all the dignity a woman can muster when she has fallen.

Today I see my doctor. We will discuss new medication. I want to dance again. I woke up early the morning after my big prize, and this is how I felt:

To the Unknown Man at a Writers Conference

I took the cat poop in a plastic sack
outside to the garbage can at dawn

The morning star winked at me
in a sky the color of a purple iris

For the first time since spring I pushed
my arms into the coat I wear in winter

Buttoned it up around my neck
and shivered, heavy with sorrow

Would it matter to you if you knew
I rise before sun-up on Sunday morning

Trembling from the nightmare
that ruined my sleep and remembered you

The young father with his clipped beard
already going gray, his eyes kind

Would it matter to you if you knew
my unshaved legs bristle with hair

And I thought of them with despair
as I pulled my husband close for warmth

Before giving up and getting up
to clean the cat box and feed the kittens

Would it matter to you if you knew
I am a friend of mental institutions

Where white sheets warm me like a coat
when the deep chill settles in my bones

And my unfriendly mind says dying
is the only way to live with myself

Would it matter to you if you knew
how much I grin and bear it, chanting

keep moving, keep moving, keep moving
like a mockingbird cries in the night

and the gravelly sound of cat litter
grounds me here in the necessary world

Would it matter to you if you knew
I drink deep gulps of coffee from a large cup

Wearing my winter coat in a windowed room
looking at October and its brown leaves

As the sun breasts the hill and blinds me
with its white welcome to another day

I think of you telling of your two daughters
the white name tag on your black sweater

your salt and pepper cheeks, a lithograph
of love, as you read what you have written

You look at me as if I hold your fevered
daughters in my arms and I can heal them

With a word, as if your faith in me
were endless. And miracle of miracles,

I spoke the word you needed and your heart
was in your eyes. This morning I remember.

Chris Alba © 2009


Syd said...

Chris, I understand this poem and these feelings. I watched my mother be brought down by severe depression time and time again. I know that it can claim me later in life just as it did her. But thus far, I only have an occasional "off" day and then the malaise of the spirit leaves. I hope that the malaise will lift from you as well.

Mariana Soffer said...

Excelent exclent post, really good poem, indeed I was planning to write a post about depression, nothing medical or anything just an artistic expression about how it is. I think most people do not get it, it is so hard to live, so hard indeed.

Keep writting like this

big Jenn said...

We are kindred spirits I think. jeNN

lakeviewer said...

This is immediate and real; even without knowing much about you, we get it. This is most powerful

Karen said...

Chris, I have lived with someone who suffers from depression, and I know how debilitating it can be. (That same mother we spoke of earlier...) At least you seek the help you need. Hold to that -- that there is something to loose the chain.

Now, the poem - Wow! You may not know it, but your talent is incredible.

Shadow said...

oh chris, i would like to take you and hug you and tell you things to bring a smile to your face and take you to a place where you will always be warm... your poem is so expressive. so filled with pain and a desire to be released from it. you're in my prayers hunny!

the walking man said...

We is what we is and we is everything we needs be. No knowing you as you know yourself is not an off putting thing, there is too much commonality betwixt the twain.

Tall Kay said...

Ask God for His shining light to show you the way. Sending you a BIG hug all the way from CT :o)

I love that poem.

Steve E. said...

Chris, you have a huge talent for arranging words in
an order of great meaning. And mingled with the vibrant vibrations from your beautiful, strong heart, is a combination of which only God could have taken part.

Peace to you, Dear Lady!