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

Therapy

I have started therapy a few weeks ago in an attempt to help with the crippling anxiety I suffer. It is amazing the depth of things that are surfacing. It is fascinating and challenging at the same time.

It was a good therapy session I thought
Peeling layers of a stubborn onion set in resin
Mining away at solidified feelings
One by reluctant one
Each clinging with skeletal fingers
to emotions echoing in empty halls against
walls painted in red acrylic
As I slit the wrists of memories
Heart exposed, emaciated
And I bleed

I spoke of mother, long dead father
How I am a child
A lost someone, somewhere, somehow
Yellow brick roads
No place like home
But I never get there
I am a chasm in a universe
A star without a sky
A tide without a moon
I swallow sky and devour the ocean
and my soul is still hungry

It’s good to talk
But oh, the guilt!
For I am not permitted to feel the spectrum
Nice girls swallow their anger
And pour the pain into a teapot
Tears are dried upon cupcakes of suppression
And emotions only paint a fictitious smile on
plastic, botox faces
But feelings lurk in wait, within my fickle psyche
Dramatic vultures craving penitence
Feasting on loss and shame and guilt
Having a welcome party
Mad Hatters in my therapist’s room

Sarah Drury

Electro Convulsive Therapy

I’ve sunk below
how far down I should go
They say the pills
don’t work no more
The hours of wasted therapy
Now my life’s in jeopardy
Wasting away on this
psychiatric ward
Owning my depression
Thinking in pictures
of hangmen’s chords
Thinking in feelings
of anaesthetised words
Wanting the birdsong
but surrounded by a chorus
of dead songbirds

ECT
Electro Convulsive Therapy
Might be the solution
Sessions are fast and free
NHS funded victory

Quick zap
National Grid on tap
Doctors trained
Electrocute your brain
Pulse that wattage
through the circuit main

You’ll be asleep
Dignity you’ll keep
It’s not like asylum days
when they gave no sedatives
When crazy folk were heretics
Stuff an old rag in yer gob
Physiological pyrotechnics

I remember…
No, I don’t!
Fuck you, ECT
Stealing my memories
away from me
Words, places
People, faces
Monochrome whispers
Phantom traces
Coming last
in psychological races

ECT
Electro Convulsive Therapy
Once I was blind
and now I can’t see
Obliterated my memories
I paid an excess fee

Fuck You
ECT

Sarah Drury

I Had a Dream

I thought about ending it all
of that sweet release
as I drifted off to sleep
Would it be all devils and pitchforks
and sunstroke in Hell?
Or would it be angels and clouds
and harps and Prozac?

And I had a dream
Like Martin Luther King
Except in mine I was knocking on
the doors of heaven
and they were locked
It said no mentally ill in here
And at first I thought maybe
they hadn’t seen
my clean heart
I had showered today and
that was a start
I didn’t look like a hooker
with my fuck me heels
and ripe cherry pout
So let me in

And I had a dream
like Martin Luther King
that even in my darkest hour
With pills in my palms
and debating the relevance of
my existence
Perceptions of the mentally ill
Would lose their sting of sour
Mental, loony, crackpot, psycho
lunatic, schizo
negative, negative, negative, negative
Tie me in a straight jacket
Lock me in a padded cell
And don’t forget the lithium!

And I had a dream
like Martin Luther king
But the people of colour
were free
and the mentally ill were slaves
And society was a hotbed of prejudice
And they put us in glass cages
And they paid a pound a peek
And they laughed
and they laughed
and they laughed

And I had a dream
Like Martin Luther King
where I knocked on Heaven’s door
and it was closed
Like the job applications
Like the lovers I’d had
Like the aspirations of being
‘normal’
Like my fake faced friends
Like my destiny

And I thought of the one thing
that tethers me to this Earth
And his tiny hand slipped in mine
And his tender heart healed my wounds
And I knew heaven
didn’t need another angel

©2020 Sarah Drury