Depression, In Brief

by Patrick Roche

(The following is a series of failed attempts at writing a complete poem about my mental illness)

I am a lifeboat of a body too small to hold myself

I like to pretend it isn’t me—the panicking—
It’s something else taking over
I like to pretend
Until it fills my lungs
It’s a frightening realization to breathe yourself out of your body

Metaphor is the only way I know how to write about this
Without making it something real

The official term for the symptom is “leaden paralysis”
So much empty, so full of weight
Sometimes in the mornings, I physically can’t lift my arms or get out of bed

When I take my sleeping pills, I always have these really weird dreams
In one, I was mugged in Australia in the middle of running a marathon
In another, my parents got back together, but my father was still dead
I didn’t know ghosts could get married, let alone remarried
In this other one, I was in an episode of Glee and I could sing! And the show was good again
And in one—more than one—I tried to hang myself
Oh, and in another one, I was Jimmy Neutron!

It’s hard to write a longer poem about this
It’s made me all loose-leaf scraps and White-Out

I am sick of living the tired metaphor of drowning
But I have to admit it’s fitting for the loss of appetite
I can’t eat if I’m constantly swimming
I mean, you’re supposed to wait 30 minutes before you even get in water, right?

I’ve read the cover of this NatGeo issue five times
There is a special kind of mutual silence and refusal to acknowledge
That I’ve only really seen between people waiting
At the DMV, jury duty, and my therapist’s waiting room

I pack my bag to visit my boyfriend for the weekend
Jeans, underwear, sweater, umbrella, toothbrush, four medication bottles, phone charger
People stare at me in the Hoboken train station
The pills ratting every time I take a step
One of my friends tied a bell on her cat’s collar
I wonder if it misses being able to hide

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