Poem: The Punishment – 06/07/20

Author's note: This poem details a point in my mental health journey where I was hospitalised for extreme mania, grand delusions and psychosis. These could not be controlled with time and much medication, hence I was subjected to the often-controversial practice of electro-convulsive therapy. The poet whom I speak of in my poem is extremely well-known, and those who can ascertain who I am discussing will understand certain references I make. 

My pills were the colours of the rainbow
oh, this was how I celebrated them,
the nurses delivered me my
morn and nacht medications,
the colours, the shades,
white, pink, purple, yellow,
so bright,
so visually pleasing were they.
When they needed to add another pill,
I did not anger, I did not dismay,
for they were simply 
increasing my brightness,
this concept assisted me 
to cope throughout my manic days.
I would bounce around,
here and there,
up and down,
in the ward where I was
the starring show,
or at least this was how
I thought of myself,
I was probably to most
an irritating bother.
I’d sing and sing,
for the joy of singing aloud,
there was little to do 
within the ward,
we had to entertain ourselves
with personal endeavours somehow,
or simply jump and jump from
one person to another,
conversation flitting about.
There were different types
of white pills,
a mood stabiliser,
an anti-psychotic,
another anti-psychotic,
how I was being loaded,
but my clever over-active mind
would not be dulled,
until they administered the
foreign electrodes.
I thought they were hoping to 
kill the magic
inside of me,
my creative streak,
the inspired side of me,
that they were aiming to
punish me
for trying to be like her,
my idol,
for emulating her style,
was this a 
warranted punishment
in itself?
To rid me of my toxic bite,
my ability to snipe and snarl
within my writes,

was I worthy of being punished
when all I did was admire,
and allowed myself to be
swayed, swayed, swayed
by her words?
I am guilty only of that crime,
is inspiration and idolising a curse?
And this doctor, with his 
trimmed Hitler-like mustache,
an obvious portrayal by the hospital,
an inside 'joke',
that a significant part of little me, 
was maybe 
bound for the hearse,
helpless at his cruel, 
well-trained hands
as a crowd of medical students
stood curiously around me,
without my prior consent,
I hysterically, hopelessly
wept, and wept, and wept.
Students' eyes signalled pity,
perhaps I was like a 
caged animal to be seen,
no escape, yet no 
true reason for being here,
this was what I firmly believed.
Here goes my skill,
I thought,
all because I fell ill.
It wasn’t my fault,
but it might have been,
somehow, inadvertently.
Where is the comfort 
of my rainbow now?
I wondered to myself.

There was no escape, 
my eyelids hung themselves
as the cool anesthetic 
entered my vein. 

I need not worry now
whether I would wake up, 
stripped of her influence,
only myself, 
or if I'd ever wake up again.   

© 2020 Lauren M. Hancock. All rights reserved. 
Image by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

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  1. When I first had my episodes when I was 21, my first time on medication was horrible. I could feel the dullness take over me, I felt my own talents of Martial Arts fading. I was losing my fighting form, my snapping power in punches. I could feel my once sharp nervous system now becoming highly dulled. My creative prowess in writing was also highly affected. I couldn’t materialise the depth of the universe like I once could. However, I’m sure others would feel at ease knowing I wasn’t wandering the streets screaming inside of myself because of the pain my head was in.

    Others would be comforted knowing I didn’t possess a hardened glare of intensity towards them. Others wouldn’t be concerned any longer because I used to think I could hear the spirits of the trees talking to me, and I would ask random strangers if they could hear it too. It took me some 20 years to accept medication. I was fortunate to avoid admission to a ward most of my life. And sorry you were subjected to that therapy. It isn’t nice to think of it still being practiced. Electrocuting the brain especially with an audience, I really don’t think that is a reasonable thing to put anyone through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can empathise with your experiences of having your state of mind and thoughts dulled by medication. Sometimes it’s deemed more important to control the symptoms than it is to retain the extreme creativity or reactivity of a patient. It can and will sometimes seem horribly unfair at the time but for the sake of our mental health the acute periods need to be addressed. I know the out of control feeling I had when I lost the sense of who I was to strong and heavy amounts of medication. Sometimes the initial combination of pills didn’t work but when the combination was found to be working, it worked.

      In the end, we need to be able to function with our conditions and for some, if not lost, this means accepting medication into our lives. Thank you for sharing part of your story here, your courage and candour is much appreciated.


  2. Great work, and it hits home. Having also had ECT (not to mention loads of medication). I don’t regret having had it, I do believe that it worked for me when nothing else would. Somehow I managed the trifecta of bipolar, borderline, and PTSD. Your writing resonates with me on a gut level and puts into word many things I relate to. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Naomh. ECT too, did help me, but I resented having to have it, feeling anger for quite some time. It’s good that the ECT also helped you. Did you experience memory disruption/loss temporarily? I’m very glad that we connect with each other’s writing, and that my words have an effect upon you, as yours do to me.


      1. I suffered quite badly from memory loss, and some of it seems permanent. And I understand your thoughts on it. While it did help I resented it. It’s something I seldom touch on in my writing. My bipolar is, these days, under more control than it used to be (although I recently had to come off lithium due to kidney damage). I wrestle a lot with the BPD though. Therapy (especially DBT) helped a lot with that, but it never goes away.


        1. I did suffer from memory loss also, and I’m so sorry to hear you did too, especially with the permanent loss. It can make one feel so helpless when one is trying to order their thoughts in a chronological order and the history just overlaps or doesn’t properly line up.

          I have been concerned about kidney damage from medication but my bloods have turned out okay thus far. It’s difficult because, as you’d know, lithium’s so extremely effective at mood stabilising, and I guess finding a suitable substitute might be difficult. But I am happy for you that your bipolar is more controlled and that DBT has helped a lot with your BPD. BPD can be difficult to combat, I’ve heard, as I’ve been explained to by those who have the diagnosis.


  3. I relate to much of your write Lauren and this conversation thread. A great honest work which pulls no punches.. I had out-of-control mania. Two sessions in hospital to make me realise the problem was me not everyone else. Fortunately my medications keep the edge off the mania but still leave me with a creative edge. Others are not so lucky.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Don. It is great that your medication regime enables your creativity to still flourish, while still controlling your symptoms. I feel sad though when I try to imagine how many voices may have been dulled because their condition’s symptoms called for a very strong medication regime. Though, sometimes the body adapts to the levels and creativity slowly returns with practice.


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