Ward Stories
(Column: Ward Stories)
Kurt Douglas Sass, Poetry Editor
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Cindy Sostchen has stepped down after more than a decade of dedication to New York City Voices. Her poetic shoes will be impossible to fill, but Ill do the best I can. This first column will include poetry that is all from ME, ME, ME! But that is only because I need to receive poetry from YOU, YOU, YOU! I know there are many of you out there who have put pen to paper in poetic style concerning your mental health and mental health issues. I would love to read your work and review it for possible publication. Please send your poetry to me via email at poetry@newyorkcityvoices.org or fax (501) 643-6758 or mail to City Voices, PO Box 310368, Brooklyn NY 11231. Please note that by sending your poetry, you are granting me permission to publish it in New York City Voices if space permits.
If you would like to read my entire chapbook of mental health poetry (for free), go to www.scars.tv and click on chapbooks.
Unwanted Tattoos
Slicing and burning ones self sucks!
We all know that!
But what I did-not-know
Was that after you stop
Long, long after you stop
The visible reminders remain.

Now, Im luckier than most.
I kept all abuse to the legs.
I can wear short sleeve shirts in the summer.
Strangers dont think I have track marks.

But theres still limitations.
I could never go swimming.
Too many unanswerable inquiries.

And theres still many moments:
Like the physical for my new job:
Questions, questions, questions!
Or my first time with Estira,
Or my first time with Doreen.
They never got used to the scars, really.
Darkness proved that.
And the worst is the shower.
The daily reminder of my horrific past.
The years have seem fading,
But still far, far away,
If ever,
From complete fade-out.

But Protect Yourself
Please save me from myself,
But protect yourself in the process.

Accept me, please do,
But only to a point.

Guide me through the maze,
But stay out of my path.

Lead me to the light,
But travel alone if safer.

Help me fight the demons,
But not at your own peril.

Save my life,
But dont risk your own.

In a Manic State 1984
I am writing this in a manic state i am aware i am doing this but once this is typed out i know it wont look manicky but if you see this handwritten you would see what i mean I just wrote this in 12 or 13 seconds i am so proud of myself

The Day Pass
After 11 days of good behavior,
Mostly due to mind-numbing drugs,
I earned a coveted day pass.

Problem was,
The staff was too damn lazy
To requisition my coat,
And the temperature,
A brisk 9 degrees.

Now the problem was not the cold,
But the sight of me with just a tee shirt.

Cops stopped me on 3 occasions.
Twice asked if I was crazy.
I told them: Guess so!
And pointed to the hospital.

And each time,
They just let me go
As if this was
A typical occurrence.

Youd Think Id Know Better
After all,
Im a mental illness expert.
Been sick since 1979.

So when my wife had her first,
Instantaneous psychiatric breakdown
I thought no sweat.
I can deal with this!
After all.
Ive been on both sides now!

Guess what?
I mimicked the same frustration,
Guilt, anger, sadness and helplessness
As my wife when I was ill.

And Id thought it would be easy on the other side.

I Have it Easy
I really should stop
Feeling so sorry for myself.

Sure, Ive suffered
Since 1979 with mental illness,
But Id need go no further
Than my own son to compare.

He has bi-polar disorder
AND mental retardation
AND autism.

I really should stop
Feeling so sorry for myself.

ABC Poem
Ability becomes catatonic.
Despair everywhere.
Fiendish ghouls hiding in jars.
Knowing lots more nastiness.
Openly perverse.
Questioning rationality.
Seemingly tireless.
Using very wanton X-ploits.
Yielding zero.

The Signs Were There
Years ago,
My grandmother was in an asylum,
As it was called back then.

She kept telling her son,
My dad,
Im gonna kill myself, Im gonna kill myself!

My dad told the doctor:
Shes gonna kill herself, Shes gonna kill herself!

The doctor brushed him off.
Well, she hasnt told me.
Well, of course not, asshole!

Nothing to worry about, he said.
3 days later, a call:
Shes dead!
Possible suicide.
Try definite!
Why didnt the doctor listen?

My father was diagnosed,
Time and time again
As an alcoholic.
Alcoholic, alcoholic, alcoholic!
Even when he forth-came
Of his self-taken mom.

If only he would stop drinking they said.
If only he would stop drinking!

And he did stop drinking,
But was still ever presently quiet and sad.
Quiet and sad.

While on his death bed,
With cancers of neck, throat and jaw from cigarettes.
An initial diagnosis of long-term depression
Finally made, but too, too late.
Why did they not see the history?

When I was 22,
It was a very bad year.
Sad and suicidal they said.
Sad and suicidal.

The word depression was never used.
Neither was genetics, or chemical imbalance,
Even though I forth-came
About my dad and grandma.

I was told to think better,
Not to take medicine.
I did think better.
I didnt get better.
I ask once more:
Why so blind-eyed to history?

My son was 7,
Autistic and retarded,
But happy and care-free.
All of a sudden:
Rapid crying,
And hysterical laughing,
Cycling one after the other.

Psychiatrists were told
Of Grandma, dad and me,
But negated our diagnosis of 4th generation depression.
They refused to look beyond
The other disabilities.
They also refused to give meds.

He suffered for weeks
Till we finally convinced the 5th doctor.
He took the meds,
And eventually felt better.
And just as always,
The signs were there! The signs were there!

Before Death
5 days before death, Jim switched to illegal medications.
18 months before death, Sue stopped taking her Lithium.
2 days before death, Earl tried to get admitted.
4 seconds before death, Joe listened to the voices.
4 hours before death, Steph decided 20 pills were better than 2.
2 seconds before death, Johns suicidal tendencies won.
3 months before death, Janes father said it was all in her head.
2 minutes before death, Mary thought she could fly.
11 months before death, Sal stopped taking his blood level test.
2 months before death, Carly denied treatment.
57 years before death, Frank accepted treatment.

I Fell For It!
I fell for it!
I wasnt depressed,
But just hypoglycemic!
I wasnt nuts!
All I had was low-blood-sugar.

The doctor could tell just by looking at me.
And the best part: Its easily controlled.
Just vitamin injections.
But, just to make sure,
And because hes a professional,
Hes going to test me.

2 days later,
under strict laboratory conditions,
Im given a drink sweeter than ever before.
My sugar went way, way up,
Then crashed way, way down.
This was the proof, I was told.

Well,
$ 2,300 of vitamin injections later,
Im still depressed.
Im still anxious
Im still suicidal.
And all he says is that I need more.
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