Sunday, August 2, 2015

Faking Bad

Seven years ago around this time of year I was riding around town all day on my disabled bus pass, writing children's poems for a book I was planning. In the city I live in the mental health center is, or was at that time, right across from the bus station, and I saw people walking in and out all day and wondered if they were getting help. I had been diagnosed with Schizoid Personality Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder at sixteen, but somehow through a combination of self-medication and just good old ignoring the problem had managed to make it through almost forty years of life without intervention. But I wasn't making it any more. I had injured my back rather badly lifting a keg of beer and could barely bend at the waist, meaning I wasn't going to be able to do menial labor where I could be left alone while I moved something heavy from one place to another with no one bothering me. Every day I got closer and closer to walking into that building and asking for help, but it just wasn't something anyone in my family had ever done. The shame and stigma were tremendous. So, I rode the bus around and around an entire summer until August. Then, one day I went in and told them I was homeless and I didn't know what to do. This poem is a somewhat fictionalized account of that process seven years ago.

Faking Bad 

In anticipation of my 
Evaluation to be declared 
Non Compos Mentos 
I slept under a bridge 
For three days 
"Getting into character," 

But on the morning of 
My intake interview 
My hair fell perfectly, 
I mean I looked like 
A fucking rock star. 
College girls on the bus 
Were giving me their 
Numbers and my skin, 
Which I'd purposely sunburnt 
And caked in the finest filth, 
Glowed like an Australian 
Chippendale dancer named Weegie 
And even the female Assisstant D.A. 
Who had busted me for vagrancy 
Waved her panties from 
The third story building 
Of the Courthouse. 

No matter how much I 
Tried to speak gibberish 
Poetry and philosophical 
Tracts spewed from my mouth. 

Shuffling past the park 
I beat eight 
Grand Masters 
At chess on move 1 

Inadvertently I solved 
The Phi Epsilom Theorem 
By kicking stones 
Into an algorythym. 

When I arrived they didn't 
Make me wait at all. 

My caseworker giggled like 
A schoolgirl while I told her 
Each day was like an endless shift 
In a Chinese fish- gutting 
Sweatshop and every one of my fellow 
Employees was motivationalist 
Richard Simmons. 
She ungirdled her enormous 
Tits and as they spilled 
Like fishguts onto the desk 
She began to howl 
"Fuck me, fuck me, oh fuck 
Me right here in 
Front of the open window 
On State Street as everyone 
Watches me fucking the strongest, 
Healthiest, smartest, most popular, 
Well-adjusted man in the world. 

The rest of the examination was 
Also a success. 
But as I left the Mental HealthCenter 
feeling marvelous 
I accidentally bumped 
An old woman with the door: 
"Watch out you manic-depressive 
Schizoid with Socially Avoidant 
Features klutz." 
-Thomas L. Vaultonburg

I got help. Help that was always available but for some reason was incredibly hard to ask for. Part of me still wanted to maintain what I thought was my freedom and independence and ride around in that bus all day with no where to go and not much hope for the future. An entire lifetime of society's and my own stigmas against mental illness were drilled into my head. Nutjob. Weirdo. Psycho. All the words we use to refer to the mentally ill went around and around in my head. They had as much power as hunger and homelessness. And that's way too much power to give a stigma.

After open heart surgery two years ago it started to become more and more apparent to me I want to use the thing I care about most, poetry, for something other than just writing about my own thoughts. I'd like to have a forum so other people with mental illness and other disabilities can express themselves and their struggles, or just write about whatever they wanted. That's what I want to do here at Outsider Poetry.

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