On channeling pain

I only write poetry when I’m feeling broken.

Ugly, hopeless poems that reek of death and decay. Because when my head is messed up it goes into my words and my hands and renders me incapable of writing and drawing anything that’s alive in the way that only fictional beings can be. Left is only dying poetry. It’s one of the reasons I don’t want to be a poet (other reasons include my being too literal-minded). I don’t want to identify as that creature in pain jotting down its deceased thoughts that I am sometimes in the same way I identify as a writer and an artist. The latter two are central to the person I view myself as and responsible for the majority of the true happiness I feel, while the former is an unfortunate but necessary consequence of being alive. Since my mental state has been less than great the last year of so, I’ve felt like I’ve been losing grip of the writer and especially artist in me, which doesn’t exactly improve the pain.

 There’s the classical narrative of the suffering artist channeling their pain through what they write, paint, compose, what have you. It’s a narrative I’ve always sort of felt like I ought to live, but I’ve never seen myself in it. There has definitely been pain present in the stories I’ve written and pictures I’ve drawn, but I’ve never intended it to be my pain. My therapists have suggested, when I’ve mentioned that writing makes me happy, that try and write about what I’m feeling, but it’s always felt forced and not quite right. It didn’t feel like the stuff I usually write – that I like writing.

However, I’m starting to think that this is partly because I’ve never really been in touch with my pain – I’m getting better at that now, after many therapy sessions and intensive soul searching. It seems to be working. A few days ago, I drew this:

 
 It was a night when I was feeling – well, exactly like that. My head was full of thoughts that I couldn’t control or organize, they were spinning out of control, and I felt like the sheer chaos of it all was preventing me from seeing or thinking about or doing anything. So I sat down and drew that and, surprisingly, it helped a lot. I’ve heard so many stories about people using their creative outlets of therapy, but it never worked for me. I could only write or draw when I was feeling (relatively) happy and healthy. But that night it suddenly did work. I felt calmer and slightly more collected with each stroke of the pencil. The drawing is certainly not a happy one, but the fact that it made me feel better sets it apart from the ugly, broken poetry I usually produce, because those poems never did. I might feel a satisfaction in having created something, but the words didn’t heal my pain. If anything, they allowed me to seep in it. 
 

Now I wonder what will happen to the ugly poetry and my art in general. Maybe I’ll feel more connected to either of them – be able to put more of myself into the works that make me happy, and perhaps also consider the act of writing poems something more and different than a drawn out suicide. I might start taking care of the creature in pain instead of standing at a safe distance staring at it as it writhes and whines. Or maybe I’ll stop writing poetry all together, go back to coming up with stories and images that are in no way a reflection of myself, and process my emotions in some other way. I don’t know. But I do know that I’ve missed drawing, missed writing things I love, and if this will make me do those things again – I look forward to figuring it out.

 
 
 
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