Just Something Funny I Wrote While Living On My Little Brothers Couch (1993)

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“There is no fucking ice cream
in your fucking future.”
Otis Driftwood, The Devils Rejects

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this was less than two minutes of ‘manic’:

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“If we could all erase the colour of our skin we would all die because we would have none and then what would hold our stomachs in and without stomachs we would go hungry and we would be so busy trying to hold our stomachs in place that we’d all starve and nobody wants to starve so we should leave our skin alone and maybe learn to live with different skins and be thankful we aren’t hungry or that we have to walk around without them because I don’t know about you but I hate to see blood. Or we could all wear Body Glove diving suits. Maybe the neon ones so nobody would dissapear in the night and get hit by a hippie driving a semi taking his fruit to market somewhere in Montreal because if you do get hit then the hippie is late with the fruit then it goes bad in the back of his truck then he’s out of a job and then he’ll blame the government and become a radical shit disturber and shoot his foot off during terrorist shooting practice and then he’ll go on welfare and go to college as a “mature student” and become a journalist and only make $9,000 a year and he’ll be really, really bitter and nobody will like him and he won’t get laid so he’ll become a yuppie but will remain bitter and nobody likes a bitter yuppie cause all they do is whine so keep your skin on stomachs in and wear neon otherwise the fruit will go bad and nobody likes a hostile fag but if it were possible to erase your skin and not create hungry bleeding hostile yuppie whining fags with one foot I’d like mine to be the colour of my couch so I could sleep all day and not have roommates hastle me about my dirty dishes or maybe the colours of a Chia Pet so people would pour warm water on me and rub green seeds all over my body. That would be cool.”

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When I was unmedicated I used to think that the pressure that built up in me was the inspiration welling up, I would scramble for a pen and some paper and furiously write until whatever was inside me calmed down. In 1992 I even wrote about how painful it was to be in one of those states: “Sometimes I’ll be writing and I’ll feel like I have to remove my socks, so I do, but then the feeling comes back so I remove my pants and then it’s my shirt and I’ll sit there naked in front of my page, pen in hand and I’ll still feel like I must remove something else, my skin, hair, blood, veins, muscle, everything — and I realize it’s my sould screaming to get out, so I lift my pen and put it to paper. God It Hurts”. I scrawled that in red pen across the torn and crumpled remnants of the last piece of paper I had in my little room. And I hate writing in red pen.

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When I was younger I thought my disease was what gave me my inspiration, and that everything else — the suicidal thoughts, the crippling depressions — were what had to be endured in order to keep that inspiration. I wasn’t the writer, I was the instrument for the disease to speak through me. But I was wrong. The disease wasn’t my inspiration, in fact my disease had taken my inspiration hostage and was keeping it in some previously abandoned barn a hundred miles north of here where, over a period of several years, my disease turned my inspiration into its Patty Hearst. In 1994, when I ended up in a College journalism program, I was also starting to experiment with Lithium. It’s remarkably easy to find a doctor willing to prescribe Lithium, and when I started school I thought the pills would give me the focus necessary to be able to attend class and be, bascially, normal. Which was a really, really good idea. But after two weeks of classes I became convinced that the pills were making me too normal, and were actually preventing inspiration from occuring. So I tossed the pills. And, of course, I was kicked out of the program. And still I didn’t take the pills. In fact I did everything except take the pills. I moved back to my little village so I could see my doctor, I tried a light lamp… actually, that was about it. Doctor appointments, the occasional handful of Lithium, and I stared into a stunningly bright lamp twice a day for a few weeks.

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And still, even though I wasn’t writing consistantly, I remained convinced that the only way I could be a writer was to be an Unmedicated Manic Depressive. I had spent close to four years one step away from being homeless, I had completed one semester of College before being asked to leave, the two most important relationships I had been in up to that point had been blown away, I had no job, no prospects of ever having a real job, most of my friendships had imploded and, for at least six years, I had the worst fucking haircuts this world has ever seen — I had a fucking “tail” for over a year. But I had a disease which had convinced me it was the only thing I needed. That it was the only thing I would ever need. I saw the world through the prism of mental illness for a very long time. It was never the disease offering me inspiration so powerful that I felt like tearing my skin off to find it. My inspiration had been so repressed by the disease that it had to fight through the disease to find me. I’m a writer who has a crippling mental illness.

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I wrote this next thing in a moment of clarity back in 1994. I had gone a few months relatively symptom free, and I could feel the disease coming back. The upper and lower case “I/i” was done on purpose… I can sort of remember why… since all upper case meant screaming, I thought all lower case could be whispering. So this is me whispering so I wouldn’t wake up the thing I was talking about. There’s also supposed to be an air of uncertainty to the whole thing, until the middle where I’m kind of standing up, but then I give in again. I know you didn’t ask. Back then, I would have been 24, I “saw” the diseased me, or the me that exhibited the symptoms of the disease, as almost a separate person — at least I did when I was writing poetry about the disease. And, in writing, I’ve always referred to the Disease as a “he”. Anyway… I wrote this, on a typewriter, back in early 1994 while living in Ottawa — so it would have been a few months before I tried College and a few months after I wrote that piece about erasing our skin. Basically this is my proof that I knew what was wrong, but I was lacking the awareness or knowledge — or even, possibly, the desire — to break away and get myself some help… maestro, in the key of weeping angels: 

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manic whispers

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i woke up this morning
and realized i had been asleep
for so long.
i had a friend once,
and now he’s back,
and i wished he’d stayed away.
because my friend is here
inside my head
and i’m starting to think maybe
he wasn’t so friendly afterall,
because he’s telling me things i had forgotten.
i woke up and the feeling was back and it scared me.
i had forgotten you see,
forgotten what the price was
for his friendship.
i can remember his name now,
because its the same as mine.
it is good to wish
but sometimes the price is too high.
i’ve lost all my friends but one,
it only makes sense that he would be the one to keep coming back
since i’ve known him the longest
and hated him the most.
i have this recurring nightmare.
in it i’m laughing.
that’s it.
in this nightmare, and i do have it,
i laugh.
sometimes i smile.
but always i’m happy.
it’s a nightmare because
when i wake up
i wish i were still
asleep.

i had a friend once.
and now he’s back.
i hate him.
when he comes,
he brings nightmares.
in them i laugh.
sometimes i smile.

i have this recurring nightmare.
in it i laugh.
that’s it.

The days I spent with you
were lonely and cold,
the nights I lay with you
were long and colder.
So why are you back?
I invited you I know.
But why me?
I never asked for a friend like you.
I never asked to hear your voices again.
By my actions maybe.
or my inactions.
But I didn’t know.
or maybe i did.
there were times i loved you i know.
but i never meant to.
i’ve always hated you.
so why are you here?
when i had dreams, you brought nightmares.
in them i would laugh.
sometimes i would smile.
that’s it.
my friends name is the same as mine.
and he’s back in his old room
here inside my head.

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…since november fourteenth, 2006.

“You burn things when there’s no going back. How much of
yourself have you had to burn away to be
the person you are today? Because baby, my body
is ash and my mind is still smoking.”

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Art & Depression, Bipolar, Canada, crazy people with no pants, Depression, Humor, Humour, Lithium, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Ottawa, Poetry, Poverty, Punk, [redacted]. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Just Something Funny I Wrote While Living On My Little Brothers Couch (1993)

  1. Queen Minx says:

    I can relate to the desire to get out of your skin. I have felt like that myself, sometimes. Wanting out of my skin, my head, my life, to walk away, to run away from it, let someone else pick it up and have it, coz I don’t want it anymore.

    In your poem, when you personify your disease, I can see how that works. How you fight it/him/you, and how it fights you back. The disease becomes a physical disease, even though it lives in your head.

    When I read your articles, I wonder if it makes you angry that you spent all those years unmedicated, or were unable to or accept or recognise that medication is necessary to control or manage your disease.

    You don’t sound angry to me, or bitter, more … philosophical about it.

    But the past is just that, past … and it is useful only if it helps our present and future, yes?

    The past is past! This is called ‘stating the obvious’ … my Mum would be proud of me, she does this a lot! wink!

    xx

  2. Provocative post there, dear.

    Strange how remembering the past can feel like recalling a dream you once had… all vague and yet so intensely real…

  3. Queen Minx says:

    Gabriel … is the guy on the left (my left) you??

    If not, who are the peeps in this pic, and why is this pic relevant, or is it relevant to this post?

    big smile!

    lemongel
    xx

  4. dumbwaiter says:

    Just like always, you do the work, and I get the attention. I always liked that picture.

  5. feartheseeds says:

    You little fucker… give me a call Sunday night, I need a favour. Someone’s coming to town and I need a hotel connection. If I’m not here I’m at mom’s.

  6. Queen Minx says:

    Aha!

    I knew it wasn’t you Gabriel, you are much better looking!

    (Minx sticks tongue out at dumbwaiter!)

    wink!

    xx

  7. Alicia says:

    It is really difficult to comment on something when what has been written is so completely similar to thoughts I’ve had before. This disease has always been an unknown person I’ve been fighting and it’s interesting to realize others live it the same way. I believe viewing this as someone I’m fighting is the best way of survival for myself, as I have always been a fighter, determined to win, to come out in front. There have been times when the only thing which keeps me from never returning is the idea I can not lose.

    On a different note…one of my favorite things to write with for many years is this red pen. I grew so fond of it I actually bought the box of twelve pens so I would have one no matter where I was. I still have some of those, over ten years later.

  8. Pingback: Reaching The One Hundred Post Mark And Looking Back At My Recovery So Far « …salted lithium.

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