Sea Change

You came in like a whale

Mapless, I didn’t know where you’d been or where you were headed

Your eyes held the treasures you’d seen and the mermaids you’d befriended

From first sight, you were all I could see- you filled my eyes until they overflowed

I felt so fortunate to behold you, if only for a moment

Your appearance above the surface seemed to be for me alone

I blinked and you crashed back into the depths, upsetting my little boat

The commotion stirred by your momentum smashed me to pieces

I’m still picking them up

You deftly moved on to a far away ocean, perhaps without knowing the wreckage left in your wake

Perhaps you never saw me

Yet my love for you remains deeper than the sea

I wait and watch the horizon, hoping to the moon that the tides will bring you back to me

Though you are not mine to have

Only in my heart could I contain something so much larger than myself

Doc

My patients come to me and say, ‘Doc, I have pain’

All of life is pain and comfort, my powers are few in the face of this universal truth

We try all manner of pills, topical treatments, injections and various therapies, yet the pain persists

Soul pain lies beyond the reach of western medicine

My patients come to me and say, ‘Doc, I cannot sleep’

All of life is fear and relief, effort and rest, I’ll do my best

I send multiple prescriptions, adjust doses, fill out piles of disability paperwork

I work extremely hard so that my patients don’t have to work at all

Although we share the same afflictions; anxiety with panic attacks, depression, insomnia, PTSD, nightmares

Perhaps my patients are doing more for themselves than I will ever do for myself

They are allowing themselves to be helped, although nothing we’ve tried so far seems to help much

No cure in sight, just a lifetime of refills

I’ve yet to outwardly acknowledge the inner storm that rages below my placid surface

My family conditioned me not to feel my feelings, trained me to exist only in service of others, to live for their benefit

The few times during childhood that I made the mistake of showing that I was human, that I was hurting, I received swift and searing backlash

Perhaps my patients are healing me by showing me what it looks like to be vulnerable, by saying ‘I can’t do this’

Yet I fear that I am keeping them unwell, allowing them to accept the sick role without hope of cure by signing their disability forms, by saying ‘you don’t have to do anything’

How will they ever heal themselves if they don’t have to?

How will they gain meaning from their experiences if their feelings are dulled by the drugs I prescribe, if I enable them to spend their life alone and inside?

I show myself how strong I am by forcing myself to function full-throttle in the world despite my invisible disabilities

How will my patients know how strong they are if their strength is not tested?

Am I secretly as callous as my parents, though I act with compassion?

Should I be more like my patients; take it easy and ask for help, or should my patients be more like me and tow their own weight, accept the normalcy of adverse human experiences, work even though they haven’t slept in days, like I do?

I have PTSD, nightmares, insomnia, panic, crippling anxiety and depression, but I carry on because I have to, or so I believe

Maybe I don’t have to do this anymore

Even though I work like a dog and pay my own way through life, even as the taxes I pay in part to support my patients’ disability benefits bleed me dry, I prefer the freedom to create my own life to dependence on a system that provides too little too late to survivors of child abuse

I want to stop asking my patients what is wrong and start asking them what is strong

We are all warriors

May I be a warrior of peace

May I heal myself in order to light the way for others on their healing journey

Fairytale

The story of the love of my life was like a fairytale

I followed the promise of the afternoon breeze right to my love

On our first date we went for a walk on a winding, icy path through the woods, during which I fell into his arms repeatedly

The pull into each other’s gravity was too strong to overcome

I got knocked up right away

We planned it that way

But it didn’t stay

I was sick with fatigue, nausea, and depression and didn’t have the time or money to have a baby

I thought he would step up to the role of a caretaker but he had his own self-imposed obligations

Not a day went by that he didn’t lose his phone or his wallet, how could I raise a kid with him?

No one, not even him, supported me the way I needed

As soon as the abortion was scheduled I joined a dating app

Still pregnant, I went for picnics in the park with strangers and drank homemade sangria which had warmed in the afternoon sun

A few bad dates later and my sanity returned to me in the clarity of my non-pregnant state,

I realized that he was actually pretty great

Sure, he didn’t own the condo or the SUV and wasn’t offering me the lifetime of security that the dating app men were, but he felt right to me

So we got back together

I cheated on him once while he was out of town and I was planning on breaking up with him when he returned, except I didn’t

I think I will feel ashamed of my misdeeds my whole life

Then we got engaged, married, and I am pregnant again, except now with more time, money and support than before

He no longer loses important things

We are living happily ever after

Except for every time he rehashes the past

Which is too often

I don’t want to talk about every sexual act I’ve ever done with a man, yet he harps on the topic

I wish I hadn’t created such a horror film of a life

I’m trying to sculpt a happier future

For me and the little one

I keep thinking I will stop swearing and start glowing

Holy shit, I’m pregnant

Although I am wary of parenting because my own childhood was awful

I will do a better job than my parents

Every day is my happy ending

Spelunking

What if I stopped caring about pleasing you and everyone?

What if I felt safe even around people who are upset?

How much energy would I free up, and what would I do with it?

How much lighter would my body feel, would my breath flow easily?

Would I be able to sleep at night, without feeling hunted by your animosity?

Would my pounding heart simmer down, and my jaw unclench?

What would I think about, if I weren’t worrying all the time how to make you happy?

What if I told you that your feelings are your responsibility?

What if I liberated myself from unrealistic expectations?

What if I let go of expectations for others?

If you love me, it doesn’t feel like it to me.

I want positive, supportive, unconditional love from those who practice humility, humor, and curiosity.

I radiate those qualities when I’m not lost in a cave of depression.

When spelunking, bring a helmet and a light.

A helmet to protect you so that thoughts of suicide don’t become acts of suicide.

A light source as a spiritual anchor to remind you not to take yourself too seriously.

Dreamboat

I dreamt my father piled his toxic masculinity on to me, the way he does

He found my secret stash of poetry and mocked me, reciting what I’d written with harsh tones of ridicule

Unlike real life, in my dream I confronted him

I told him I didn’t appreciate his critique of my truest expression of myself

He tore in, told me I was crazy

I felt pushed to my edge, the way I easily do

Still dreaming, I contemplated suicide, the way I readily do

Then I realized that I am ok with walking away

It felt liberating like a bell ringing, like a sunrise on the horizon of my mind after a lifelong night

If he wants to die alone, that is his prerogative

I’ve got my best life to live- no more will I give my power away to those who throw me away

What is this false belief that I could ever make anyone else happy

I became very unhappy trying to make everybody else happy

Growing up in a home of violent depressives, I didn’t stand a chance

I’m ready for a second chance at life- I will fall many times, but I will always get up

In my dream, I walked away

I climbed into a little boat with the man I love

We floated down a beautiful river

We were as happy as two people in a dreamboat can be

And we are

Irony

I usually doubt that I am using the term ‘ironic’ accurately, but I marvel at the irony of the humbling relationship between my uterus and the universe.

I thought my fertility was abundant until I aborted a pregnancy and have been unable to conceive subsequently.

I ended the pregnancy for many reasons, partly because I thought my resources were too scarce, and now I am spending mad cash buying baby shower gifts for friends.

It was easy to end a pregnancy that made me gravely ill, though maybe I would have felt better if I had hung on for a few more weeks.

As a medical resident, I thought my time was too limited to have a baby, and now I am working overtime because my female colleagues had theirs. My employer’s policy for maternity leave started one month before I would have been due, but who knew. Perhaps I take my job too seriously, even for a physician.

My uterus is dark and malleable and filled with iron-rich blood. My thoughts are bitter and molten as I reflect on the irony that the exact thing which I tried to avoid imposing on others- disrupting their work schedule- is precisely what has been inflicted on me.

I terminated my pregnancy partly because I wasn’t married at the time, then when I got married a year later my family refused to acknowledge my wedding anyway.

The lesson to not let anxiety run my life is hard won. I am anxiety incarnate, but I am more than that. Had I not let worries about time, money, or what my co-workers and family would think of me dictate my actions, maybe I’d have a child now.

I’d probably make the same decision again, but the taste of iron is strong.

Nothing Wrong

I giggle at the absurdity of my efforts

Why do I try to fit in with people I don’t like?

Like my racist family, or my manipulative patients who mirror in my professional life the horrors of my personal life, recreating the dynamic of my childhood and toxic relationships with exes

I have a habit of keeping myself safe, my survival instinct is strong, so I play along

But basta, ya- enough already

I only wish that their threats of suicide were real

That may sound cold, but that’s how I feel

This script is getting old, I want a new reel

I wonder how they’d fare on a desert island like me

No one to react to their drama, would they sit silently under a tree?

Growing up there was always a crisis at home

How lovely to realize

There is nothing wrong

Liberation is hard-won, yet occurs in an instant

I hope you catch it before you are nonexistent

Thirsty

I wrestle with the dark depths

Tears flowing, thoughts running

I explore the idea of ending life in this body

To communicate what my mouth doesn’t say

To let my family know how much they hurt me

To give myself long-needed relief

Still I hang on just a little longer

And am rewarded with beauty beyond words

The first signs of Spring, delivering a baby

The light from these moments pierces through my depression

I am reminded of the sacredness in all

I can destroy myself as a result of trauma, or be a source of healing for my family

Breaking the inter-generational chain of abuse is a privilege

I radiate golden light to past and future generations, links in a chain

I cannot see the beginning or the end; I see the light, born from the alchemy of hurt and healing

My body is a crucible, a vessel for transformation

I am a force for healing

Yet I do not force my healing

The source of my healing is always present

Drink if you are thirsty

Coping

If I ever have children (if my body can forgive me for a lifetime of multifaceted abuse), I hope to give them a more robust and diverse repertoire of coping skills than the ones my parents left me

Instead of beginning and ending with cheap alcoholism and angst, I hope that my children draw from a complete rainbow of abilities

Mindfulness and movement; may they know the sweet depths of meditation, may they return to the present moment through gentle awareness again and again, and may they bathe in the ecstasy of a daily movement practice such as yoga, qi gong, tai chi, or wild freestyle dance, may they know that peace is always a breath away.

Contact with nature: may they be blessed with the sight of many sunrises and sunsets, may the sky fill their eyes and their lungs; may they have nature in their hearts and in their homes and may they submerge themselves in forests for sanctuary.

Interconnectedness: may my children know that they are loved unconditionally; may they connect with loved ones regularly, may they feel safe and supported in this world. May they draw on ancient wisdom and allow space for new realizations. May they feel both one in a million and a million in one.

Humility: may my children not overburden themselves with pressure; with realistic expectations may they wander more easily through life, may they balance unhelpful thoughts with helpful thoughts, may they rise up for an eagle’s eye view from time to time, especially during trying times.

We are all children at our core. May we know all of these blessings and more.

Cup

This is it, the big one

The debridement of my most primordial wound

Dissection of what my parents did and didn’t do

Releasing us both from the impossible task of fulfilling each other’s expectations

Seeing them for the first time as the narcissists they are

Pretending to love me only when I made them look good

Spitting on me with their words and crushing me under the boots of their ego when I was hurting

When I needed them most they abandoned me

Like childish bullies, they took no responsibility for themselves or others

I’ve turned my face to them time and time again looking for love, searching in vain, coming up short

They refuse to see the parts of me that they don’t want to

My father told me I was flabby and looked like a monster when I was 15 years old

I subsisted on a high-glycemic diet stolen from my workplace because there wasn’t enough food at home, which resulted in weight gain and horrendous acne

I didn’t see my father for what he was; a negligent parent and an asshole.

Instead I wallowed in sorrow for my innate deficiencies, contemplated suicide because I wasn’t beautiful enough

Don’t worry Dad, I was still attractive enough to get raped enough times to lose count

As if you care

I can’t imagine treating my child the way you treat me

Lord, help these wounds heal

I am ready to move on, to break the inter-generational chain of toxic parenting

To write a new song instead of the broken-record of your critical dialogue

You can live your life in crisis mode, but don’t impose your crises on me anymore.

You imprinted your patterns of anxiety on my developing body and brain

I felt the need to gain the gushing approval of everyone around me

To be the smartest, prettiest and most accomplished in the room

I made many men swoon

I don’t need that anymore

Take your booze and do with it what you will

My cup is full

I depend on no man to keep it filled