Care in the Community

In 1986, the UK started the countrywide closure of the mental asylums, which housed over 100,000 patients, who were moved into the community. It was a noble act but very difficult for many of the former patients, who had to live amidst prejudice and ridicule. They were often treated with fear and suspicion by others, and ostracised from the rest of society. My great grandma was one of these people, and she found it very hard to leave as she had become institutionalised. This poem is looking through her eyes…

They shut down all the asylums,
din’t they.
Lofty, archaic ceilings,
echoing cries
of institutionalise.
Faceless Freud-styled fodder,
clothed in layers of regulation.

Pluck out my eyes so
I no longer see
the haunting corpse
of a ghost of a spectre
of a prison.
That crushed me
in fists of banal sterility.

They shut down all the asylums,
din’t they.
They kicked us onto streets.
Into people,
into mocking,
into laughter,
into ridicule,
loonies, nutters, crazies.
And we don’t know where we live anymore,
us half-breeds.
Walking around in polyester frocks,
yet floating in visions of hospital smocks
and medication time.

Care in the community,
they call it.
Well, it’s shit.
Cos the community don’t care,
and us crazies don’t care,
and we try to get by,
and the people stare,
and they call us freaks
and they whittle away
at our fragile egos,
crushed, broken and weak.
Like discarded eggshells
not Faberge.

They shut down all the asylums,
din’t they.
Freedom should taste like haute cuisine.
But when you’ve learned to live
within a bubble of lithium, valium, Ativan,
something’s got to give.
Imperfection is perfection
in a kingdom where the crazy rule.
But step beyond the lock and key,
to the world where
the weak and troubled fall,

and people cannot help
their ignorance.
For dig to the bottom of
their cruel-school bones,
as you learn to dance
to the ridicule
and you put your face on the joker
of every card you’re dealt.
For the laughs are at you
not with you;
Cheap and how the hyenas choke on
their resonant, acid tongues.

But I live in this half-way world;
my legacy is a white walled asylum
and I hear that my penance
thrives on my fear.
Hail Mary,
hear my prayer.

They shut down all the asylums,
dint they.
The lies they told
with their penny pinching lips.
They told us it was progress.
And they told us it
was freedom.
And I sit here in my prison.
Of fear.

Sarah Drury

The Grace to Be

I feel like I have sunk into a place where I have been stuck for 20 years after I lost my career and life due to my poor mental health. I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and I now also suffer from anxiety disorder and OCD. I now have a psychotherapist, so we are dealing with the root of my emotions and behaviour patterns in a hope to move forward. I feel many people reach rock bottom but it is a chance to evaluate your life and make changes which are more positive. Sometimes you have to listen to your soul and intuition!

We are
Not magic porridge pots.
We scoop the need to be
unlimited vessels of energy,
Spooning more and more
until we reach the dregs
and then we fall into the pot
and drown in our incapacity.

Empty pots.
We smash them
with our shaking hands.
Shards of piercing ceramics,
on our fractured dreams they land.

Broken hearts,
broken minds.
Broken promises,
a life we left behind.
Plucking bubbles of hope
from the sun-risen air.
And I am there.
Chewing on fallen dreams.

Sometimes it’s time
to become an empty vessel.
Release the stress.
Stop the wheel of fortune,
before it spins into
an irreversible mess.

Stop!
Think!
Release!
Heal!
Revaluate!
Feel
your soul’s cry.
Ask yourself
Why? Why?
And what?

Before the fortune
comes the fall.
Pick yourself up,
hear your spirit call.
You can be free!
Just bless yourself
with the grace
to be.

Sarah Drury

Compliance

I owe my life to two things: my son and a drug called lithium. It is not an easy medication and comes with some harsh side effects. It can also be lethal. Here is my experience:

I chew the cud of psychological
plaster casts
A cow crudely masticating broken dreams
Oh, white lithium
Not so refined
as to be spherical
Choking the resistance
Laid dormant within me
Valiance succumbed by
radicalised defeat

My glazed eyes from
days of psychiatric praise
My mouth parched
Drinking deserts
Spitting out the camels
Yet feasting on the humps

I may be as animated
as a corpse
Chasing heaven
Yet pursued by fallen angels
My limbs may tremor
Swathed in tsunamis
as they tremble like
leaves tossed meaningless
in a merciless wind

And in my darkest days
I will be penning eulogies
Darkness clothes the weary
in roseless thorns
Yet when the leaden clouds
disperse
Joy becomes an ecstasy

“Euphoria”, sings the blackbird
delirious on Puccini
Taking flight on wings
of obsidian promises
Just as my mind
Grazes the stratosphere

The steady choke of conventional
pulses through my veins
A military equator
uniformly bleeding
regulated nonchalance

The tick tock passage
of the anaesthetised psyche clock
whispers in demands of compliance
And I dot the i’s
and cross the t’s
As the lithium punctuates my life
into fairytales
Not horror stories

©2020 Sarah Drury

Image by jessica45 from Pixabay

PRISONER

20 years ago, during a manic episode, I was restrained and forcibly sedated, followed by a 6 month section. This is how it felt…

I was not a statistic
White walls close into
Slave shackles
Reflecting on a fallacy

Warmth slips frostily
Grasps futile flesh
Whales thrashing
Senseless oceans, mercilessly

Perambulate privilege
Calling out to
Decaying calla lilies
Freedom demise revenge

Harsh cuts its acronym
Empty ears swallow cries
For mercy but echoes
Resound upon ignorance

Snowdrop in a summer’s
Blazing serenade
Snowflake is a pot
Calling the kettle black

©2020 Sarah Drury

Confession

I partook in a 5 day poetry workshop focussing on the soul, and it was a real challenge as my poetry is not so introspective. This is one of the poems I wrote:

One day, my soul
I will feel you
I will feel solace in your infinite wisdom
Some say our souls
dwell within our bodies
But I know it is our bodies
which dwell within our souls

One day, my soul
Your magnanimous love
will be treasured at a time
When this Earthly vessel
wraps its anxious grief
around a troubled mind
Lost in a sea of tumultuous emotion
My soul cries out for
the empathy of humankind
And I don’t know if
I will make it
in this shattered time
of broken promises
But I know there is a plan
within your wisdom

One day, my soul
I will love this damaged skin
This damaged skin my soul
is forced to live within
I feel so ugly
yet I feel so selfish
knowing this is the
path of my soul
I feel like heartfelt intimacy
is a distant, far-fetched goal
But I know there is love
within your wisdom

One day, my soul
My mind will be
a homely dwelling
A place where
psychiatrists and pharmacies
aren’t relentlessly selling
their miracle pills
and psychological solutions
Trading a balanced mind
for physiological pollution
But I know
there is a peace
within your wisdom

One day, my soul
My anxieties
will be a forgotten dream
The times I pound at
the I’m-not-normal door
And want to shout and scream
And I don’t know
if I will ever feel human again
I feel like I’m trapped in a hysteria
that blights the soul of men
But I know
there is sanctuary
within your wisdom

One day, my soul
We will soar free and fly
Hearts in restful places
where the sunrise
meets the sky
The oceans will ebb and flow
with the fullness of my being
And Cherubim will fill the heavens
at the unity they’re seeing
And I know
there is perfection
within your wisdom

©2020 Sarah Drury