Voices: “Maintenance”

Welcome to the second week of Mental Health Month! The third poem in our series describes a situation that will probably sound very familiar to those who have suffered with chronic mental illness. During treatment, at some point you reach a stage in which you feel like you’re just treading water. Therapy and meds are just effective enough to keep you out of the hospital, but are not effective enough to allow you to live a real live and feel like a person. You may not like the doctors you’re working with or you haven’t quite found the magic cocktail of medications yet;whatever the case, you are miserable. People see you and praise you for doing better- at least you’re not slitting your wrists- but you want to laugh in their faces and say are you kidding me? This is not a life!

But time marches on. And if you are fortunate, as I have been, you will eventually find the right meds, the right doctors, the right circumstances in which to begin a real life again. You will feel human, and describe yourself as more than a cluster of symptoms. You’ll recover.



I hear people say, “You’re doing so well”

But this happens to be my personal hell

So lonely and meager, this tedious rut

And each door I turn to promptly slams shut

No school to attend, no papers to write

Life’s at a standstill, nothing is right

A job that I hate, that doesn’t pay shit

But somehow I don’t have the guts to just quit

At my mother’s apartment, no space of my own

I come back to this place that I can’t quite call home

There’s only this canvas on which I paint words

Though even this seems to be slightly absurd

Twenty-two pills day, just to stay sane

To keep me from drowning in anguish again

To stave off the thoughts of ending my life

To keep me away from razors and knives

I torture myself in pursuit of my past

Hoping that somehow I can outlast

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll come to a place

Where I can close my eyes without seeing his face

© Sarah Henderson 2004


About writingforrecovery

Sarah is a writer and poet who speaks out about issues that make people uncomfortable. Sarah advocates for causes such a sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and mental illness, and often speaks openly about her own experiences. She is determined to abolish the stigma associated with these issues and believes that it starts with people telling their stories, so she started a blog called Writing for Recovery where people can do just that. She is the author of three volumes of poetry and is currently at work on her fourth. She is convinced that there's a novel somewhere in her, and occasionally picks at the chapters so far. View all posts by writingforrecovery

2 responses to “Voices: “Maintenance”

  • Leslie Neshama

    Sarah — thank you once again for putting your Self out there; your absolute courage and willingness to survive.
    I am wondering if there is anyone who lives with daily suicidal thoughts, and somehow, some way, survives that fearsome, flimsy reality.
    I would love to communicate, in a public setting here, if possible, so that perhaps out of our silence can come strength: the strength that you know, Sarah, god knows………How do we survive these illnesses? God help us……

    • writingforrecovery

      Thank you once gain for you kind words, you always have something lovely to say.

      There have been several periods in my life when I lived daily with suicidal thoughts. I was fortunate enough to have people in my life that supported me through those times, kept me sane, and most importantly, alive. It is survivable.

      Can you tell me what you mean about communicating in a public setting? I’m a little confused!

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