Thursday, 12 February 2015

General Paresis of the Insane

Midst loss of hope and deep despair
he longs to find someone to care,
but much to his chagrin he finds
there is no one who’ll tarry there. 

There in that place of troubled minds
where troubled souls are thus confined
to languish in their discontent,
abandoned they and left behind

He, the poor cad the miscreant,
syphilis made mad, he then sent
to languish in that utter hell
in hope of sins he would repent.

He left alone in barren cell
with troubled thoughts on which to dwell,
he yearns to hear that tolling bell. 
He yearns to hear that tolling bell.

He yearns to hear that tolling bell.

Anna :o]

After reading Björn’s and Claudia’s (early) responses to Gay’s prompt (at dVerse) I set pen to paper, or more accurately fingers to keyboard and up popped the first stanza.  Then I got lost so searched Wiki for an image and the rest followed from there.

I have worked in mental health since the early nineties, did my training in a psychiatric hospital -–long since closed -–and when there, vowed I would never work in such a  place (strictly against my conscience).  Don’t get me wrong, as in staff, there were many good people there - but I just felt they were in the wrong job. 

There is a definite stigma attached to mental (ill)health, a certain belief that those who suffer from it are malingerers  and there are those who indeed abuse the system for an odd sort of gain

There were certain young folk -–especially of the male variety -–who would get themselves sectioned, feign mental illness to escape prison sentences.

It is estimated that one in four of us will suffer mental ill-health in our lifetime and for a long time I personally disputed this figure - that is until I suffered from it, albeit to a low degree.  During this difficult period (for me) I found that my colleagues - who of course work in mental health - couldn’t deal with it.

Mental (ill)health - you are very very alone.

As of my response to the prompt, I know there is an extra line - but it just felt right.

Source: Web Gallery of Art:  


Beachanny said...

I will start with the end - for the sake of the poem I think the repetition again is warranted. When I began the poem, I thought of the brilliant Ezra Pound. Like Gertrude Stein to art, so I think Pound is that editorial mind and eye that helped poets "fit" their poems into the "modern". Certainly he affected Eliot, Carlos Williams, Stevens, and possibly to a lesser degree Yeats. Yet he will be remembered for his perfect American Haiku IN A STATION OF THE METRO rather than the revealing Cantos. Left to suffer alone at St. Elizabeth's in DC, I think he must have felt like this.

The poem is very touching, Anna. Again in your poem, the depth of emotion is revealed even better by the line length and the poem's length as I have found in all the others. This poem and its woven rhyme gives us that depth I think.

Anders Woje Ellingsen said...

This is very beautiful. As a schizophrenic, I find you are articulating what is important to schizophrenics. That last line is fantastic, to a schizophrenic, and can be understood both by the good and the evil.

And you master the form. Well done!

Glenn Buttkus said...

Marat Sade, QUILLS, The Snake Pit--all come to mind. I was once in a production of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, & found that even pretending to have mental illness has its price. Working with legally blind Veterans for 30 years, we did see our share of malingerers; but they had specific monetary compensation goals. Still, it was fatiguing to document the large majority of reported sufferers of PTSD, who had a Hx of mental instability long before they ever served their country.

Wolfsrosebud said...

nice job on the form... a sad write

Heaven said...

The refrain in the ending is perfect Anna ~ You have captured very well the troubled mind and soul~


Anthony Desmond said...

truly saddening write... A lot of the mentally ill are abandoned, treated like crap... you captured the struggles as well as stuck to the form... nicely done.

Claudia said...

i think mental illness is much harder to treat than physical stuff and many are left alone with it - also often the people around you don't take it as serious as sth. physical.. really like what you did with the rhyme scheme and the inspiration from the pic

Sherry Blue Sky said...

You have captured it so clearly and after reading your notes I understand why. Yes, working within the mental (ill) health system, one finds some truly compassionate and respectful people, but they are given a hard time by the majority of staff who - at best - lack empathy. My daughter is in exactly that position now, working in a care home where she advocates for the patients and is hated by other staff. Sigh. A brilliant write, Anna.

Björn Rudberg said...

The mental illness is so hard to treat, and sometimes I think we have just hid them from the world (which to me is where the repetition in the last stanza works so well) to feign this sickness would probably make you ill so I wonder how many that gets well by treatment vs how many gets well despite the treatment.

Brian Miller said...

the triple echo in the end of this really plays up that despair...the opening really sets the tone as well...because i think we all want to have someone who cares or at least the feeling that they do....

good to see you anna...smiles.

ADDY said...

I was horrified to learn from a TV programme the other day that a 74-year old woman had been put in a mental insitution at the age of 11 for being disruptive at boarding school and had been forced to stay there until she was 41 ! Understandably she now has a deep mistrust of the medical profession. I agree that mental health is still misunderstood these days and had a stigma. A thought-provoking poem.

Heidi said...

Excellent write Anna and perfect call on the repetition. Always happy to see you only blogroll! hugs!

The Bizza said...

I read this poem, which stands on its own merit... And then I read your description... So I read it again. So much more powerful and melancholy after understanding your description.

And you're right about the repetition ; it provides an evocative ending to the poem.

The Bizza said...


Anonymous said...

I noticed before I read your piece that it had an extra line, but after reading, I must agree with you that the extra line did, indeed, feel right. The line break before that last line also added to the poem as it gave a sense of 'pause', like the repetition was a sigh at the end. Wonderful write on a difficult topic.

Kathy Reed said...

Having a schizophrenic son who fell through the cracks in the mental health system, I know the pain, have witnessed the despair, understand the changes needed, and abhor the apathy the stigma has created, not to mention the burnout of staff. The subject matter very well served by the usage of this form, Anna.

Vandana Sharma said...

very heart felt.

Sabio Lantz said...

Very nicely done. I actually understood much of it with out your background (more than I can say for many poems). But additionally , I loved that you shared the background info.

Good rhym and form use. Fun stuff !

Sabio Lantz said...

Very nicely done. I actually understood much of it with out your background (more than I can say for many poems). But additionally , I loved that you shared the background info.

Good rhym and form use. Fun stuff !

Martin said...

In a world that comprises so many unhealthy tendencies like extreme exploitation of people and resources, war and violence etc. one often wonders who are the insane ones ...
A great piece to read - those closing lines add a special effect.

Helena said...

Poignant in both piece and atricle forms.

Beate said...

Your poem is so amazing! It has a lot of power and it is very thought-provoking.
I can imagine that working in that field is so not easy and I agree that we all will know sooner or later what it means to be depressed or in an even worse state of mind. We should never judge those who suffer from it.
I hope you are feeling much better now!

Jenny Woolf said...

I can hardly imagine anything more alienating than being mentally ill. It is a wonderful poem although very disturbing.

Anonymous said...

does the bird not having a place here represent how you fee? somethimes I feel like I have not place.

in state, faithful lying