finding focusIf one has ever been in a psychiatric hospital they are more than aware of the nemesis demon known as ‘boredom’. If one has never been locked up, I don’t believe that a person can really relate. Despite the various groups, listening to the stereo, talking to fellow patients, meals and the most precious visiting hours, one cannot escape the overwhelming dullness that comes to haunt from time to time. Might I make a suggestion that worked for me?

Creativity comes from the Creator; you see the similarity of duplicated letters. I believe that every single human being on planet Earth possesses some form of artistic talent. Whether it is painting, music, singing, writing, sculpting or even cooking, we all have got something that is fueled by ‘inspiration’. The trick is finding what that is. Being locked up in a psychiatric hospital was how I began my career as a writer.

When faced with boredom, one will do almost anything to alleviate the mind numbing effects. Personally I took up smoking cigarettes in psychiatric hospitals just so I had something to do. Watching television or even listening to music just didn’t cut it. Talking with fellow patients is quite fascinating, but after being locked up together for several days the allurement dies. Of course the refrigerator provides a quick fix, but this is best avoided. I found myself with my fellow patients simply walking in circles around the ward.

Then there was my writing. I would write for the sheer love of it. When I began they were mostly poetry in the form of song lyrics. It was a joy just to take my thoughts and ideas and put them down on paper in some clever and enticing way. I shared the poems with my fellow patients, the staff, and visitors. I would make a game out of it. I would ask a person for a topic for a poem. Then I would get to work and twenty minutes or so later there would be a finished poem. From thirty years ago I still have several of these works.

I recall one nurse named Deborah who was very big on Freud. She was cruel, cutting to the bone in her honesty. I remember one day in group therapy a patient who was a woman clicked her shoe on the floor. Deborah stopped the whole flow of conversation. “Why did you do that?” the seething nurse asked.

The patient obviously embarrassed and probably frightened had no answer. Of course Deborah had already come to her own conclusions, “You’re seeking attention.” Well I guess the poor woman got what she was looking for but not how she intended.  

I bring up the story of Deborah and the patient for only one reason, to show her blatant honesty. So it was with great reluctance that I showed her some of my writings. “Brilliant,” she said with an encouraging smile. Knowing the answer had to be truthful, I was thrilled.

I recall those horrible days when I couldn’t get a handle on my mental illness. One doesn’t think that they will ever succeed in life when they keep returning to a psychiatric hospital. Being practical I realized at this rate I had no future. I couldn’t stay sane so how could I ever hold a job, let alone support myself. So I wrote hundreds of song lyrics that I copyrighted. My dream was to hit it big. Going back thirty years my writing has survived a ferociously hot attic and a flooded basement compliments of Superstorm Sandy.

Seven years ago both my parents passed away in the same year. Needless to say that was a terrible year for me. As a result of the stress and awful feelings, I turned once more to writing. My collection of poems began to grow very rapidly. Soon I decided to send them out to publishers. I would say that as much as ninety nine percent of my poems got rejected. I had a lot to learn about the world of getting poems published. But it didn’t matter to me; it was a thrill just to try.

Fast forward seven years until today where I have ten books out and more coming soon. My poetry has been published in around one hundred outlets and my prose two dozen. All of this success comes from my experiences in hospitals. Of course poetry is very saturated with my experiences in the world of bi-polar. Writing about mental illness, of course reveals that you are in fact mentally ill. As such, inadvertently I have become an activist for the mentally ill.

My first book will always be the most special. Published of eLectio Publishing it is called Murmurings Of A Mad Man. This book examines a dark time in my life when I was committed in a state psychiatric hospital called Greystone. It is dark yet behind the gray clouds the brilliant light of hope unmistakably shines through.

I wanted to share this success story so that you will be inspired to do something artistically. I can’t guarantee you anything except that it will help cope with your mental illness. And then you never know do you?