Motherhood, Music, Memories, and Other Musings: Mental Health Monday

For our round-up of readings about mental illness this week, I’ve decided to adhere to the time-honored principle for writers – “Show, don’t tell.”  Below are some of the best mental health postings around the blogosphere this week, with excerpts and links to read more.

Confusing Motherhood” (psychosisrus)

I can’t help but sit here in immense pain, wondering how the hell it got to this? I am stuck! I never really had the motherhood 101 course. No real mentors in this area. All fly by the seat of my pants – make it up as I go, bullshit. I guess I have been doing okay, I just want to be better. More effective. Will you say “That is just PROOF that you are a good mom. You always want to give more – be more for them.” Okay, I get this, to a degree. But here I am, stacking all my insufficiencies one on top of the other. I’m stacking my deck. No one else is! Why do I keep going back here? Why? Because I am so worn out, in pain, tired, frustrated, and COMPLETELY overwhelmed.

Daile’s Mix Tape – Waltz #2 (XO)” (kissmeoutofdesire)

 It is a simple song in terms of composition, not needing an orchestra of instruments and relying on a guitar and Smith’s husky voice. My heart breaks to listen to this song knowing that the musical genius who produced it, suffered from mental health and addiction issues and ended his life through self inflicted stab wounds – if that doesn’t tell you he was a tortured soul, I don’t know what would.

Faith and Sight” (The Consolations of Writing)

“Am I okay?” the question asks itself.
The mind retreats within to make reply
And eyes forever dart towards the shelf
(The cupboard open, fruit left out to dry).
Unsettled souls put back the oil of joy
And rifle through supplies to find the seed.
The memory bank’s a plastic, moulding joy,
Responsive to the anxious way we knead,
New lies put in for truth, new fears for peace.
For we transform the past each time we check,
And, moulding former years, these years can’t cease.
There’ll always be new jokers in the deck,
New ways to stop ourselves from singing praise
And counting blessings in these blessed days.

Depression” (Le Chatelier’s Principle)

Because my grades were dropping, my parents started to put more pressure on me to pull myself together, and my friends started to wonder why I was pulling away from everyone, and finally, finally they got me to realise that something was wrong.  I went to see the school counsellor and she said she thought I might have depression.  I suppose I should have realised sooner, especially since my father had been going through pretty much the same thing, but it was still hard to accept this.  To realise that there was really something wrong.  That was kind of scary.  But it was also a relief to realise that I was not alone, that what I faced had a name.  And to realise that there was hope.

Triggers, Triggers, Everywhere” (Nodus Tollens)

I recently had to attend a family gathering, which thankfully was at my own house so I actually had a bit of a chance of getting away to my own space. As we all know, family gatherings are just full of questions such as:

“Are you losing weight?”

“Did you gain weight?”

“Why aren’t you eating?”

“Are you on a diet?”

“Why aren’t you in school?”

“What are you doing now?”

“Do you have a job?”

And etc etc etc.

Chaos Storm Thoughts” (Documenting Descent)

I feel like there are people keeping me in the unknown. There is a storm brewing in my minds full of egotistical delusional thought. Do I really think that I am important enough for people to conspire against?  People come and go, people hide, and when they are hidden, I can not help but think it is so they can strike against me. People disappear from the online world, people that once liked me in real life, but due to the tides of fate, may not hate me, but want nothing to do with me, even though I care enough to check up on them occasionally and smile with their happiness and jokes.  But one day they are just gone? without mention, rhyme or reason, they just… :poof: and it bothers me, I do not know why it strikes me so to my core. Perhaps it is due to my time in foster care, where people would come out of nowhere and side strike you, or perhaps I really do, in someway believe myself to be important enough to conspire against, I don’t know, all I know, is last year I didn’t feel like this, or well maybe it is better to say I didn’t feel this strongly. But it least I can count the number of people who really dislike me on my hands, so it is not over ten yet?

On Mental Issues and Joking About Them” (kojitmal)

It`s hard, when everything`s in your own head. It`s not like a broken arm where you have the cast. It`s not like crutches, or  a band aid, or even like the telltale signs of chemotherapy in case of cancer. These are at least somewhat more socially accepted. It`s okay to call in sick to work when you can`t get out of bed thanks to a flu. It`s not socially accepted to call in sick to work when you can`t get out of bed thanks to depression.


Support Mental Health Awareness

image from Angelica Cambridge

Building Community by Featuring Followers III

 It’s Sunday afternoon.  Morning worship is over.  The Colts have the game well in hand. Over two hours before evening worship.  It’s time to fire up the virtual grill and welcome a few more followers over, carrying casserole dishes of flash fiction, bags of poetry, and coolers of life reflections.  A good time will be had by all.  To join in the fun, simply visit any of the sites or featured posts and tell them Tony, who has “A Way With Words” sent you.

To read more, visit my new blog address by clicking on the title below —

“Building Community by Featuring Followers III”

Bon Apetit!

the planet blue potluck!

Building Community by Featuring Followers

Today, I was drawn back to my followers and decided to  feature some of them in a series of posts, both as a way to express gratitude for their following and build more community — sort of like an “A Way With Words” pot-luck.  I’ve included links to seven of these blogs, as well as to recent posts I find indicative of their work.  I hope you will be led to visit their sites and that you might mention you found them here.

To read more, visit my new blog address by clicking on the title below —

“Building Blogging Community: Featured Followers”

cute blogging notepad!

 from Katie Whalen Krysh

Preview of Delight in Disorder: Autobiographical Prelude I

I am getting very excited about the publication of my spiritual memoir — Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission which is due for public release in March of 2014.  To give you just a taste of the upcoming feast, I thought I’d share an excerpt from the poetic prelude: “To Nineveh (and back) — A Memoir of Faith and Madness.”

To read more, click on the title below –

“Delight in Disorder Preview: Autobiographical Prelude I”

Social services & the fostering world....many sad children....all they want is a home & people who love them!

from Montana Gypsy

Finding Life Within and Beyond the Clouds: Mental Health Monday

Happy Mental Health Monday!  This week, we offer a plethora of first-hand accounts of mental illness: depression, PTSD, psychosis, sexual abuse, substance abuse, and suicide.  We end with some comic relief about psychotropics.

To find Mental Health Monday posts, click on the title below —

“Life Within and Beyond the Clouds”

Blue above and below

“Blue above and below” from Adrasteia in Nightmares and Dreamscapes

For Two Aspiring Writers

 ‘Tis the season for graduation parties and this weekend I’m going to two – one for my college roommate’s son Dan and one for my cousin Leah’s daughter Kelsi.

Interestingly, Dan and Kelsi share something very precious in common – their love of literature.  Dan is enrolled in a Ph. D. program in English at University of Louisville and Kelsi will be majoring in English at the University of Chicago.  Both of them aim to pursue a career in the field of publishing – writing, teaching, and editing.

As a graduation gift, I got Dan the book Bread in the Wilderness by Thomas Merton and I included this note –

Dan –

As a poet and folk singer who digs into the “roots” of the literary and musical trees, I thought a book on the Psalms would be an appropriate gift.  The Psalms, in addition to being inspired sacred literature, are simply beautiful poetic and musical expressions of love and longing, fear and anger, exile and homecoming.

The author of this book, Thomas Merton, was a Roman Catholic convert who became a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani (not far from Louisville).  He wrote poetry and essays and became something of a spiritual guru for the bourgeoning hippie movement, as well as generations beyond.

I hope this book in some way inspires you to continue writing marvelously moving poetry and singing stories of beautifully flawed humanity.  You have a gift, Dan, and I pray you continue to put it to good use.


Tony Roberts

P.S.  As an added treat, I thought I’d include a poem I heard at a reading in Bloomington.  The poet, Frank Montesonti, wrote it about teaching creative writing.




I try to tell my students to use images:

                say, a piranha eating an apple

       or a piranha flying through the air

               and biting a woman’s jugular.


Maybe you could say that when the blood

sprays from the woman’s neck it looks like, hmm,

a red Chinese fan.


When I’m asked what a poem should be like,

I simply state the fact that a full-size cow can walk into a river

and a school of piranha can devour it in two minutes.

They work their way into the belly and eat out the soft organs.

Then the skin and head dance on top of the water.


Frank, do all our poems have to be about piranhas?

a student asks — the piranha.


No, no, not if you don’t want them to be about piranhas,

I tell her, of course


I really don’t see the point

of not writing about piranhas:

that moment when the water starts to break and pop

before the frenzy.

(“Piranha” is included in the book Blight, Blight, Ray of Hope)

image above “Graduation” from  Nina Perozzo in GradGather 

Luxuriating in the Feel of Words: The Writing Life of Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath’s journals detail, among other things, her love affair with words.  She expresses great passion in her writing, yet also a grave sense that it does not yet measure up, that it is too self-absorbed.

What I have written here so far is rather poor, rather unsatisfactory.  It is the product of an unimaginative girl, preoccupied with herself, and continually splashing about in the shallow waters of her own narrow psyche.

Plath, from an early age has a keen sense of what makes for great literature, yet like Van Gogh copying the masters in his early work, she sees herself lacking originality.

Do I create? No, I reproduce.  I have no imagination. I am submerged in circling ego.  I listen, God knows why.  I say I am interested in people. Am I rationalizing?

At 19, she has much to learn, and she is aware of this.

Technically, I suppose the visual appearance and sound of words, taken alive, may be much like the mechanics of music… or the color and texture of a painting.  However, uneducated as I am in this field, I can only guess and experiment.

At times, the young Plath’s lack of wisdom causes her great frustration.  She desperately wants more time – an eternity – to learn all there is to know (in all realms of knowledge) so she can produce good writing.  Occasionally, though, she hits on poetic expressions that bring her great joy.  After writing a poem she entitled “Sonnet: To Spring”, she writes –

Luxuriating in the feel and music of the words.  I chose and rechose, singling out the color, the assonance, the dissonance and musical effects I wished – lulling myself by supple “I”s and blend long “a”s and “o”s.  God, I am happy – it’s the first thing I’ve written for a year that has tasted wholly good to my eyes, ears, and intellect.

Sylvia Plath would go on to write many poems, as well as the novel “The Bell Jar”, that would taste “wholly good” to the eyes, ears, and intellects of many people – in her own generation and for generations to come.  Yet, she would not find ultimate satisfaction in this.  Rather, she slipped into such despair that she opted to end her own life at the age of 30.

In many ways, this was an abrupt, tragic end to what was shaping up to be a brilliant literary career.  In other ways, it was the culmination of a struggle that lasted over a decade.   On November 3, 1951, Plath wrote in her journal –

God, if ever I have come close to waiting to commit suicide, it is now, with the groggy sleepless blood dragging through my veins, and the air thick and gray with rain and the damn little men across the street pounding in the roof with picks and axes and chisels, and the acrid hellish stench of tar.

Yet, it was not the unpleasantness around her that caused her the most trouble, but the unsettledness within.

I am afraid.  I am not solid, but hollow.  I feel behind my eyes a numb, paralyzed cavern, a pit of hell, a mimicking nothingness.  I never thought, I never wrote, I never suffered.  I want to kill myself, to escape from responsibility, to crawl back abjectly into the womb.

Being a Writer or Becoming a Wife: Reflections from a Young Sylvia Plath

At age 19, Sylvia Plath had gone from being an awkward, painfully shy girl to a sexually confident young woman.  As she prepares for one of her many dates, she reflects on her image and identity.

In the mirror, undressing, I look at the rather impish and mobile face that grins back at me, thinking: oh, growing to be a woman, to learn the art of subtle power!  As long as men have ideals, as long as they are vulnerable, there is the power to create a dream for them.

Plath did not rest easy in such power.  She saw the complexities of the relationship between men and women and feared what power she might lose were she to pursue marriage (the only perceived “safe” arrangement for coupling at the time).  Nonetheless, she found herself driven to men by a strong sexual urge she calls “refined hedonism”.

Victimized by sex is the human race.  Animals, the fortunate lower beasts, go into heat.  Then, they are through with the thing, while we poor lustful humans, caged by mores, chained by circumstance, writhe and agonize with the appalling and demanding fire licking always at our loins.

This creates a dilemma for Plath.  As she considers her relationship with “Dick”, a pre-med student, she ponders difficult questions.  Would she pursue her writing or become a wife?  Could she do both?

The fact remains that writing is a way of life to me… Would I be forced to give it up, cut it off?  Undoubtedly, as the wife of such a medical man as he would like to be, I would have to.  I do not believe, as he and his friends would seem to, that artistic creativity can best be indulged in masterful singleness rather than in marital cooperation.  I think that a workable union should heighten the potentialities in both individuals.

This “marital cooperation” was not to be found with Dick, who interprets Plath’s assertiveness as a desire to dominate.  She finds others and maintains hope in some “workable union” as she enjoys various romantic relationships.  The idea of being both a wife and a writer remains an ideal.

… would marriage sap my creative energy and annihilate my desire for written and pictorial expression which increases with this depth of unsatisfied emotion… or would I achieve a fuller expression in art as well as in the creation of children?  Am I strong enough to do both well?

Yet, in quieter moments, as she reflects on her passion for poetry and poetic prose, she wonders if she would ever be willing to make sacrifices necessary for marriage.

And when I read, God, when I read the taut, spare, lucid prose of Louis Untermeyer, and the distilled intensities of poet after poet, I feel stifled, weak, pallid; mealy mouthed and utterly absurd.  Some pale, hueless flicker of sensitivity is in me.  God, must I lose it in cooking scrambled eggs for a man.

Quotes from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. 

For more reflections, see –

Beauty Out of Sorrow

Ricocheting Madly In-Between

The Grimness of Atheism

Luxuriating in the Feel of Words

(photo of Sylvia Plath from Caitlin in To Read)

Built to Last (inspired by John Prine’s “One Red Rose”)

Our Cabin by Rick Scully

The rain came down on the tin roof, creating a soft white noise that Lydia found soothing.

“That roof is built to last.”  said her Grandfather long ago and again and again in her childhood

Each time it rained.

“Not everything is built to last.  But that roof will outlive me.”

It rained the day of his funeral and the tin roof held.

Shielding them from the sorrow of their loss.

#     #     #

“Did you remember to give Phoebe her umbrella?” Lydia asked.

“No.  I thought you did.” replied Donald.

Lydia sighed, weary of words that went no where.

Her parents had given Donald and Lydia a week’s retreat at the family cabin,

An anniversary gift to the two of them,

And a birthday present to Phoebe, who shared the day with them.

They hoped it might help.

“It’s the least we can do,” they said.

#     #     #

“Why don’t we go to bed early and save clean up for tomorrow?” suggested Donald.

Lydia was too tired to protest.

She took one last look around the room.

Dirty paper plates.

Crumpled paper streamers.

Half-hanging cardboard sign.

She walked away, leaving the kitchen light on.

#     #     #

As Lydia walked to the bedroom, her eyes fell on the family Bible.

She opened it up and found the rose pressed between the pages.

She heard her Grandmother’s voice from the day Lydia shared the news of her engagement.

“Marriage is hard work,” said her Grandmother.

“I want you to have this.”

She gave Lydia the Bible.

“This is the holy alphabet for your marriage.”

She opened it up to a rose.

“Your grandfather gave me this rose on our wedding day.”

She closed the book and handed it to Lydia.

“I want you to keep this.”

#     #     #

Now, her grandmother was gone.

Lydia closed the Bible on the rose.

Some of its remains fell to the floor.

Some things just aren’t built to last.

This poem first appeared as a blog post on January 3, 2013.  It was republished in thematticuskingdom on March 26.  You can hear John Prine sing “One Red Rose” – here.

(photo: “Our Cabin” from Rick Scully, some rights reserved)

The End of the World (as they knew it)

Tonight I’m doing a reading for the “Upstart Poets Series” at the People’s Bar in Bloomington, Indiana.   Here’s one of the pieces I’m going to share.

+     +     +


There was a knock at the door and suddenly the Christmas lights went out.

“It’s the end of the world!” said Maura, an avid reader of apocalyptic literature who had yet to give up on the Mayan 2012 prediction.

“We need to pray.” said Paul, who, at 16, had found his way into a youth group at a local evangelical church.

“First we need to confess our sin,” said Father, rather quizzically.  He was a lapsed Catholic who hadn’t been to Mass in years and he wasn’t sure of confessional rules in the End Times.

“Okay, I’ll go get my cell phone.  I just downloaded a confessional app.” said Thomas who, after a season of doubting, had found a link to a site called “The Virtual Vatican” that had given his life new meaning and purpose.

“Let’s just answer the damn door and check the breakers!”  said Sonya, who had come out last year as an atheist.  Two years ago, she came out as a lesbian.  The year before that, as Bipolar.

Sonya answered the door.  Nobody was there.  She checked the breakers.  None of the fuses were blown.

“I tell you, it’s the end the world!” repeated Maura.

“Let us pray.” said Paul, bowing his head.

“First, confess.” said Dad, a little more certain.

“Where’s my cell phone?” asked Thomas.

“You guys are nuts.” declared Sonya.  ”I can’t wait to post this on my blog!”

“YOU ARE A BLOGGER?” they all exclaimed.

Sonya just smiled and quietly brushed a strand of hair from her face.

+     +     +


What do you think?