The Cathedral in Rain

 

 

Her bells ring within our minds,

Slow, long, heavy thuds against

Some mystery bronze as if Tibet

Itself has lent the sound. Sorrow

Within cracks upon the drone,

A way…a path back to light

And strength upon her spires.

There are few instances where

One longs to drown. The constant

Echo of gunfire, concussions

From grenades, and the eternal

Wringing of withered, pious hands

Fade to silence in the pure orange

Flames feasting on ancient oak.

But somewhere, in a forgotten

Pocket of being, she stands still

In a cool, unending rain.

Lost in a sopping wood where

Men cannot scar her tranquil

Shade. Those bells from legends

Past ring though no hand pulls

Their ropes. If one stops,

Turns to the north and clears

The mind, their resonance cuts

Clear to the spine, tying us all

Into one healing flame.

 

I had a dream a few months ago of a majestic Cathedral in rain with bronze, thundering bells. It gave me the deepest sense of peace I have ever felt. When I saw Notre Dame burning, I could hear those bells ringing in the distance. I have been avoiding publishing poetry on this blog due to a new attempt to submit to publications. But I really wanted to share this.

If you would like to read more of my poetry, check out my works on Amazon.

https://totaltext.wordpress.com/poetry/cathedral-notre-dame-in-reims

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Prufrock in the Age of Incels

 

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I have avoided The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock like the plague. There was always something about the poem that made me feel completely and utterly hopeless, which I believe is by design. But it goes further than that; there lurked something personal. I felt so deeply similar to Prufrock that I feared I would share his fate, wandering wraith like on the beach listening for mermaids. I was a loser. A disconnected, weirdly emotional loser that always stood out and never felt connected to anyone or anything.

We are going through many transitions at the school where I teach, and one of the most frustrating things for me is the switch to a new textbook. Textbooks bring with them heavy -handed, pedagogical umph. The choices as to what poems are included can force a literature class down a narrow choice of predetermined paths and I usually balk at them. Within this textbook, I made the decision to focus on Prufrock as a sort of challenge to myself. One of the only joys I find in aging is the constant reassessment of texts as I visit them in new stages of life. Different things stand out to me and I find the more complicated works unveiling themselves to me more readily as the years pile on.

Prufrock aged in some very peculiar ways that have much more to do with our current sociological climate. I felt my jaw hit the floor as I watched Prufrock bumble his way through the lives of women, coming up short and drifting away in a haze of lonely self obsession. And it hit me like an Emu rampaging down a dirt road while I jog and listen to Bon Jovi on those weird new Air Pod things.

J. Alfred Prufrock is an incel.

In a lot of ways I always knew this, but now I have a word for his predicament that brings his harsh and bitter reality in crystal clear focus. Prufrock wants nothing more than to have a connection with another. To reach out with his complex (if silly) soul and to have someone appreciate his inner self. But every attempt to connect goes hopelessly awry. Each mis-step crushes his fragile self-esteem even more to the point that his neuroticism has taken possession of him. He is a creature DEFINED by idiosyncrasies and built entirely upon the pain of his failures.

Compare this to the modern incel. A creature of the web, an incel is a man (and in some cases a woman) who is unable to function in the world of sexuality. They struggle to find partners for a variety of reasons. Some claim to not have the looks required of men for sexual competition. Others blame their height, anxiety, or weight for their problems in the romantic field. Incels have formed online communities devoted to the discussion of sexuality, and while many seek to rectify their difficulties, other have sunk into a similar despair to Prufrock, feeling lost and fragmented like the famous ragged claws crawling across the bottom of the sea.

But where Prufrock focuses his attention inward, blaming himself as much as the sickening modern world that has cut him off, incels often turn their rage to women themselves in a vile misogyny,  Labeling attractive women as “Stacy’s” and “Roasties” in an attempt to dehumanize them. “Stacies” chase attractive men referred to as “Chads,” and other complex coded language fills these forums to describe what they perceive to be unfair aspects of their world. In essence, these self identified “incels” shape the world to fit a warped and painful vision built of their own suffering. It dominates their view of themselves and becomes a cult like dysfunction.

It’s possible Prufrock himself may be on the verge of his own violent rampage, or at least an increasingly bitter attitude to the women who refuse to acknowledge him. The image of Elliot Rodger filming his manifesto stands in a stark contrast to the shy and otherwise harmless image of Prufrock bemoaning his isolation. The forces are very much the same. Men often struggle to live in a world that takes issue with seemingly arbitrary facets of their character. Women surely struggle with this as well, but for the moment my interest rests with the men, who have taken obsession with sexual fulfillment to toxic highs. This may have always been with us, but the losers of our society have never found it so easy to form a community, to navel gaze and obsess with the myriad ways society has harmed them.

What is to be done with these men? What is to be done with Prufrock strolling the beaches and maybe taking solace with sexworkers in the seedy parts of town? What is to be done with them men crumbling under the primary desire of their being driving them to acts of violence even as their bitter tears flow?

The only authority I have to speak on this issue is the very little known fact that I myself was once an incel. I was very much of the Prufrock nature, immersed in depression and self loathing. I begged my dad for advice in my teenage years. The rules of the game, even the most basic parts of social interaction with others my age were just completely lost to me. I did not understand how to operate in the world. Looking back, I no longer blame my peers for rejecting me in a variety of situations. In short, I was a really weird kid. I was immature and just lost in the realm of how to act in groups. I would describe myself as a mix of being a doofus and just being lost in my own interests to the point that my relationships with others (especially girls) was strained.

My dad had no advice. All he could say was “I never had a problem. People just liked me. You mother just liked me and that was it.” It isn’t dad’s fault. He never struggled with this the way I did. How could he know some magical path to just “be normal” without also sacrificing who I was? How does one keep the dreamy, somewhat annoying charm of a Prufrock without being disingenuous? There was literally no answers. I had to just keep putting one foot in front the other, bungling relationship after relationship and looking like an idiot. I did not really begin to date until I was 22. Even then I sometimes ask my wife why the hell she overlooked some of my more bizarre behaviors. I still have an incredibly Prufrock like sensibility at times and I am not sure I ever truly understood my problems until I was treated for depression and ADHD. I am not exactly an attractive person. I can only credit my persistence (and careful attention to not being a creep) for ever winning the affection of another.

I lurk on incel boards and have such mixed emotions about these men. Sure there is a sense of morbid curiosity and freak show like effect, but ultimately I FEEL for these men. I want to help them get past their psychotic love for their own suffering that I once shared. I want to reduce their pain and help them find some measure of normalcy for themselves, but for the love of Christ I just don’t know how it could be done.

We need to find a way to teach boys and young men how to maintain their psychological well being. We need social exercises so that men can discuss their difficulties without collapsing into a conspiratorial blame game. Incels need to confront their own delusions about what the world owes them, to build a respect for women not as women but as fellow humans that are often as confused and trapped as they are. There is never any guarantee that a man will find some dream girl living in their spaced out fantasies. But there is the potential to find something completely unexpected. That hope never dies, but the darker aspects of inceldom kill it slowly with misogyny, bitterness, and even violence.  

At the end of the day, Prufrock listens out upon the waves though no one sings. The human voices drown our hopes, but as long as we live we can continue to look out upon a grey horizon and keep walking toward some future. At some point, it’s better to turn away from the ghostly voices of the sea and look inward. There you may find some song with which to build a life filled with a strange, and worthwhile joy. 

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Illustrations by Julian Peters, found on Google Search

For more musings on the complexities of mental health, check out the author’s Non-fiction writing.

His time in a psychiatric center

 
And meditations on religiosity.

Crush the Patriarchy: A Love Poem

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In the book of Genesis, God makes Eve from the flesh

Of Adam. He names her, describes her with the hebrew

Phrase Ezer Kenegdo. The wise ones who translated

The book had no words in English to equal Eve’s description.

 

In their foolishness, they picked “helpmate.”

That is not what this phrase means.

The closest anyone has come is “She who is over

And against me.” Ezer is a name of God as one

 

Commands and protects. Kenegdo is one who rises

Up against and meets another where they stand, equal.

There is a hint of threat and dominance to Eve

The ancients twisted the words to hide.

 

I understand them. Eve was the rock Adam would break

Himself against. The one, who digging for his strength

Would break his arms and legs while he laid tied,

Helpless to a wheel. In the depths of his pain

 

She would command him to stand, and he would.

My Eve.

My love.

My one who stands over and against me.

 

You are the chisel to my bare stone, cutting

Away what hides my truth. You hold my greatest

Fears and deepest agonies within your delicate,

Fickle hands.

 

Fickle. Fickle in the way a child holds a moth.

My love for you is the love that moth holds

For the light that sets its wings aflame

And burns its fragile frame to dust.

 

You break me. Shatter me like glass

And expect my parts to reassemble

Themselves. In this way, my Ezer,

You find the strength I hide even

 

From myself.

So You Are Going to a Psych Ward. Four Things to Expect

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are few things that form a definitive milestone in one’s life quite like an extended stay in a Mental Hospital. So much pop-culture has explored this mecca of self discovery, but you may not realize that many of the Girl Interrupted/Cuckoo Nest films depict a world a little more idyllic than what actually awaits the mentally wayward. Besides the lack of attractive Hollywood talent, here are some of the more shocking truths that await you.

  1. You will most definitely get fat.

Any effort you have put into fitness leading up to your vacation from sanity is about to get blown straight to hell. The quality of the food varies from one facility to another, but considering they are serving cafeteria style fair to a likely unruly bunch, its gonna be full of carbs and all sorts of fatty, buttery, butt busters. I can’t say with 100% certainty that their goal is to constipate you, but prepare to not poop for at least a week. Add in the fact that a great deal of comfort will come from vending machine sodas and candies and you have a perfect storm of bad health decisions within reach in a confined space you cannot escape.

And for added punch, your medication is gonna fluctuate, which opens the door for all sorts of metabolic shenanigans. Which leads us to…

2. You will be pulled off your meds, only to be over medicated like a member of Pink Floyd.

This sounds awful, but from a medical stand point it makes sense. Most of the people in there with you are simply struggling with a meds issue. People grow resistant to their medication and eventually spiral out of control. The best way to make adjustments to one’s chemistry is to detox and start from a blank state. Add on to the emotional damage an extended period of faulty meds can wreck on the brain, and the best way to bring a person down from such lofty heights of delusion is to flood their brains with artificial calm.

People are often very belligerent and in a menagerie of irrational thoughts. The first goal of treatment is getting patients to ATTEND treatment. Sedated patients are typically much more passive and cooperative. It can be a recipe for relaxation and involuntary acceptance of one’s surroundings which is great if the thing that sent you to the loony bin was anxiety. But for others there is also the possibility of uncontrollable gas and dry body parts that are otherwise supposed to remain moist.

Regardless of the side affects, you are going to need this period of “I don’t give a f*%ck,” because despite what you might believe.

3. This is not a damn vacation.

I was under the impression that the mental hospital would be a place of isolation and calm. I needed some quiet to put myself back together with the aid of constant therapy and a feeling of security. Nothing could have been further from the truth. You are jammed in there with a throng of people just as, and likely even more messed up then you. You will share your living space with bi-polar depressives,  paranoid schizophrenics, panicky Alzheimer patients, and even sufferers of alcohol and heroin withdrawal.

The last one threw me for a loop. There were two halves to my hospital. One ward handled mental illness on it’s own and the other was devoted to drug rehab. Modern medicine typically looks at drug addiction as a MENTAL health problem, so after detox, addicts will filter into the mental only ward to explore the root of their problem.

Every single person you meet in this facility will trigger the ever living shit out of every single mental hangup you ever nurtured. You will flow with hate and break like glass on an almost hourly basis. It is unrelentingly awful. And you know what? That’s the whole point.

Those breaking points are your opportunity to actually explore and identify the irrational parts of your psyche. You won’t get better in a sheltered and peaceful environment. You must be led to the source of your dysfunction, or in this case constantly bombarded with it like a soldier storming the beach at Normandy. Once you realize this, you can begin to engage with your therapy and take an honest look at yourself. You may even leave with a few new, interesting phobias. To this day I get horrified at the very sight of balloons due to an exercise  involving a volleyball style exercise where a fellow patient thought the balloon was his father and constantly slammed it into my face.

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The Terror…

 

You need to come to this realization quickly as well because…

4. Your time is short.

Before I went on my “mental vacation,” my father told me it would be the biggest mistake of my life because they would never let me out.

Good God he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Mental health treatment costs money. The olden days where people would just lock up the feeble minded and relegate them to the “ward of the state” status is over. Your stay is often dictated by the whims of your insurance. Better insurance means a longer stay. The need of care isn’t really the true barometer for the amount of treatment you receive. The average stay in my facility was one week, so it was important to come to Jesus quick if you wanted to get true benefit.

Lastly, the duration of your stay has a positive benefit. My dad also thought my reputation and life would be ruined with the label of mental illness following me around forever. That is also thankfully false. I kept my job and suffered no consequences due to my care. If anything, my workplace was more than happy to keep up the slack while and went and glued the broken pieces of my mind back together.

To close out this piece, if you need psychiatric care GO! Regardless of the specifics to your facility, or the insurance qualms, or the comfort of your bowel movements, the benefits of treatment are real. I can attest firsthand that nothing gets better without some form of treatment. Don’t hesitate, get the help you need.

For more check out my memoir detailing the experience and learn of the circumstances that landed me in psychiatric care in the first place!

Depression and the Failure of Memory: An Introduction and Plea

My memoir is almost done, and I am thrilled to share the introduction! Writing this book has stirred up some strange and awful emotions, but it has been well worth the struggle. I won’t say I am proud of this work, but it has been struggling to escape my mind for years. Now that it will soon erupt into the world, I can sit back and say a dream has come to fruition. My greatest hope is that someone will understand the extremes a mental illness at least a bit more. I hope that they find some new well of empathy to draw. God knows we are in short supply as of late.

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Much has been written about the effects of major depression on one’s cognitive capabilities. To summarize, they diminish in some fairly shocking ways, though the fact that they diminish should surprise no one. I have wrestled long and hard with the stories contained here, not just in their shocking content, but even their veracity. I have long had a bad habit of embellishing things that happen to me for the purpose of milking those experiences for more dramatic effect in the telling of the story. I think all story tellers do this in one form or another, but I believe it vital to disclose some suspicions I harbor for my own memories.

 

To keep this somewhat short, let me get right to the point. A major milestone of this journey is disputed. I remember my sons suffering awful digestive issues in their very first years. I remember losing sleep, crying through nights and accepting that both had feet planted on death’s doorstep. These memories are as real to me as the keyboard recording my words. They are tangible with sights, smells, touch, and dreadful sounds that still drive me from the peace of sleep. I have written pages and pages of poems and other material cataloging these experiences not only to share with others, but to try and better deal with the horrors myself.

 

Just recently, my wife informed me that none of this ever happened. There had been problems with their stomachs and it caused more than a little discomfort, but the intensity of these memories are apparently misplaced. The specifics, my memory of actual things said and nights spent in dread are almost completely denied. For me the story is true and the past is something that we shape as our lives twist through life’s harrowing course. My wife doesn’t have the best memory in the world, but her vehemence in denial leaves me cold and shaking with doubt. Afterall, my sickness is one of the mind. I descended into a place where thought fails, collapses into the confusion of fantasy and wanders amongst the fears of things that never were.

 

I caution the reader that this is the story of a time when the boundaries of dreams and reality blurred. I am honest. These things happened and the people in the facility were real. The names have morphed through the years and the order of events is somewhat scrambled, but it is a truth I defend. At the very least, I like to tell myself sometimes that the Mandela effect is real and we all cross a few rogue parallel universes from time to time. If it didn’t happen exactly as I describe it, it probably happened to another David somewhere in the cosmos. That logic helps me sleep.

 

For the record, James Frey did nothing wrong. At least in my universe.   

 

It has been a struggle resurrecting my ambition and even summoning the strength to put these words on paper, to tell my story of a journey into the belly of our mental health system. To be committed is an experience wholly unlike anything else that I have ever endured. I am thankful for the lessons I learned, but even more thankful it’s over. One of the tech’s at my hospital told me the world would be much better if everyone suffered a nervous breakdown at least once. At least there would be more empathy for those struggling with minds that don’t behave. My hope is that this work opens these doors and gives us all a chance to lose our minds, at least temporarily.

 

Contained here is only the first part of this story. I stayed in the facility for more than a week and the real work of self care didn’t begin until day four. Just as Allison said near the end, we can’t begin to reassemble ourselves until we shatter completely. That moment is still incoming. But for now, lets dip our toes into these tumultuous/ hallucinogenic waters.

 

  1. Bailey

1/17/19