Church Bells and Mental Hells - Poetry Weekend

Church Bells and Mental Hells

Church bells are ringing.
Ain’t it swell
To know we might be saved?
We won’t go to hell.

Church bells are ringing.
The choir is singing
Of saviours and joys
And the good tithings
We’re obliged to be bringing.

Church bells are ringing.
Empty streets are humming
For forgotten spirits
And the live ones
Loved ones and their Christmas homecoming.

Church bells are ringing.
The blustery winds coincide.
You can hear the metal tremble
An echo of consolation
For widowed brides.

Church bells are ringing.
But it’s not nearly as loud as the ringing in my head
Ringing outside.
Ringing inside.
It’s almost enough to keep me in bed.

Maja Dezulovic

A Week's Worth of Madness - Poetry Weekend

Drawing by Steve Ouditt

A Week's Worth of Madness

A week's worth of madness
That's all it took
To give thanks for
My arms
My legs
And the concentration it takes to read a whole book!

A week's worth of madness
Unfolding in my mind
So now I understand better
What it means
To have a restful sleep
To relax

A week's worth of madness
Excruciating pain
Was enough
To get me to say:
"Lord, rather just take me now!"
And then when He didn't
I announced my new way of looking at the world
In utter disdain.

A week's worth of madness
Forced me to treasure
Small joys
Dawn breaking
Birds singing
Sun shining
Rain falling
Life's stupid little things
That sometimes have value beyond measure.

A week's worth of madness
And I'm a better writer
Words like
Take on new meaning.
I'd even go as far as calling anybody battling with illness
A freedom-fighter!

A week's worth of madness
And I'm sane
You see!
Just please Lord,
I've learnt my lesson
No need to hit repeat.
Please, let's not go through this again!

A week's worth of madness
Has awakened in me
A sense of sadness.
For those whose weeks of madness
Aren't weeks

A week's worth of madness
Got me out in the sun
I left the house
Talked to people
And it was indeed quite fun!

Maja Dezulovic

The Reasons I Write about the “Bad Stuff”

I’ve received a few comments lately that I need to “lighten up” and focus on positive things in both my writing and my life.  Most were well-meaning and well-received, but some came with the implication that it would make it easier on everyone, including myself, if I toned things down a bit.  I wrote this to try to make people understand that I’m not as much of a pessimist as I may be perceived to be.  I prefer to think of myself as a wide-eyed realist.  So here are my reasons for writing about the “bad stuff”.

1. I can’t live inside a bubble
Yes, there are some wonderful and beautiful things in this world.  However, there are also some atrocious and hurtful things.  As much as I’d love to not think about all the suffering that goes on, it’s not a button I can simply turn off.  I’m not necessarily focusing on the negative, it’s just there and I acknowledge it.

2. Someone needs to say something
Too many people are afraid to speak out.  I am possibly even one of them, but I’ve found a way to speak and that is through my writing.  I used to be the type of person to silently scream within myself during social events when people made stupid remarks, whilst just smiling and nodding during conversation.  Then I turned into the person who always spoke out, which was perceived as “bitchy” and anti-social.  Now I’ve learnt to better control when to speak and when to shut up.  Or rather, I’ve learned what type of people to avoid.

3. Just because we’re not speaking about it, doesn’t mean it’s going away
If we ignore the tidal wave, it will still come and drown us all.  I’m still astounded by how many people choose to live in selective ignorance.  I guess they’re simply too afraid to step out from the path that has been carefully laid out for them throughout their whole lives.  However, ignorance is a choice, and it’s sometimes difficult to watch loved ones blissfully make that choice.

4. Discrimination is alive and well
People try to tell me racism is dead.  Aha!  All these people are white, and let’s not even try to explain to them what white privilege is.  I’ve also heard people smirk that depression is not a real illness.  Aha!  Let’s hear you say that after suffering through it (and I really wouldn’t wish it upon anyone).  People also discriminate for so many reasons, many of them petty at best.  Many of these people will also not get it, but there is hope for some.  There is hope for the few that will one day catch themselves and get it, and once that happens there’ll be no turning back for them.

5. You cannot cherry-pick your education
We are learning every day.  It’s part of the process of being alive.  Some lessons will come to us gradually over time, whilst others will smack us in the face and leave bruises on our egos for years.  Yes, you can be selective about your experiences, but life cannot be pre-determined.  I don’t choose to focus on bad things, nor to just speak out about negatives, but I voice the issues that I think require the most attention.  Unfortunately, in most cases, it is the “bad things”, because those are the things that we fight the hardest to ignore.  Once we’ve overcome them, then I guess I’ll have less to write about.

Maja Dezulovic

Songs about Mental Illness

There are undoubtedly many songs about mental illness, drug addiction, and just terrible things in general.  These are five of my favourites.  I like them because they give a little insight into the minds of people who may be suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or even schizophrenia.  I've shared some of the versions here so that others can enjoy them with me.

Pixies - Where Is My Mind?

This song was featured in Fight Club and also at the end of Season One of Mr. Robot.  Both the movie and the series have protagonists with schizophrenia.

Ooh, stop
With your feet in the air and your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head will collapse
But there's nothing in it
And you'll ask yourself

Where is my mind
Where is my mind
Where is my mind
Way out in the water
See it swimmin'

I was swimmin' in the Caribbean
Animals were hiding behind the rock
Except the little fish
But they told me, he swears
Tryin' to talk to me koi koy

Where is my mind
Where is my mind
Where is my mind...

Bee Gees - I Started a Joke

It's easy to read paranoia and anxiety into this Bee Gees classic.  I've included a recent cover of the song, which was featured in Suicide Squad.

I started a joke, which started the whole world crying
But I didn't see that the joke was on me
I started to cry, which started the whole world laughing
Oh If I'd only seen that the joke was on me

I looked at the skies, running my hands over my eyes
And I fell out of bed, hurting my head from things that I said
'Till I finally died, which started the whole world living
Oh if I'd only seen that the joke was on me

Nirvana - Lithium

Anybody who's studied mental health or been diagnosed with bipolar disorder will know about Lithium, which has been prescribed as a mood stabiliser to patients with mental illness since 1948.

I'm so happy because today
I've found my friends
They're in my head
I'm so ugly, but that's okay, 'cause so are you
We've broken our mirrors
Sunday morning is everyday for all I care
And I'm not scared
Light my candles in a daze
'Cause I've found God
Hey, hey, hey

I'm so lonely but that's okay I shaved my head
And I'm not sad
And just maybe I'm to blame for all I've heard
But I'm not sure
I'm so excited, I can't wait to meet you there
But I don't care
I'm so horny but that's okay
My will is good
Hey, hey, hey

I like it, I'm not gonna crack
I miss you, I'm not gonna crack
I love you, I'm not gonna crack
I killed you, I'm not gonna crack

Marvin Gaye - Sad Tomorrows

This is the shorter version of Flyin' High (in the Friendly Sky).

Flying High in the friendly sky,
Without leaving the ground,
Rest of the folks are tired and weary
And have laid their bodies down
I go to the place where danger awaits
And its bound to forsake me.

So stupid minded,
But I go crazy when I cant find it.

In the morning I'll be alright my friends
Soon the night will bring the pains again.

Flying high in the friendly sky,
Without ever leaving the ground,
Ain't seen nothing but trouble baby, paraphernalia is my name
There's a place where good feeling awaits me,
Self destruction's in my hands.

So stupid-minded,
But I go crazy, when I can find it.

I know I'm hooked my friends, 
To the boy
Who makes slaves out of men.

I did the best I could...
Nobody understood...

Billie Holiday - Gloomy Sunday

Originally The Hungarian Suicide Song by Rezso Seress, this song is hauntingly beautiful.  It was made famous by Billie Holiday and I've included a lovely version by Angelina Jordan.

Sunday is gloomy
My hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows
I live with are numberless
Little white flowers will
Never awaken you
Not where the black coach
Of sorrow has taken you
Angels have no thought of
Ever returning you
Would they be angry
If I thought of joining you
Gloomy Sunday

Gloomy is Sunday
With shadows I spend it all
My heart and I have
Decided to end it all
Soon there'll be candles
And prayers that are said
I know, let them not weep
Let them know
That I'm glad to go

Death is no dream
For in death I'm caressing you
With the last breath of my
Soul I'll be blessing you

Gloomy Sunday
I was only dreaming
I wake and I find you
Asleep in the deep of
My heart

Darling I hope that my dream
Never haunted you
My heart is telling you
How much I wanted you
Gloomy Sunday

Maja Dezulovic

Long Summer Days Give Way to Autumn Leaves

Falling Leaves in Zrinjevac Park, Zagreb

I grew up loving winter.  It meant dressing up in boots and warm tracksuits, a warm fireplace to fall asleep next to in our sitting room, and sipping hot chocolate in the mornings before school.  For a long time I even felt that winter was my favourite season.  We weren't the type of family that would run away to the coast every summer nor did we have a swimming pool, so aside from the extended summer holidays, there was nothing that made me particularly fond of summer.  Winter felt more special, treasured.  Perhaps that was because winters were short in South Africa.

For the last couple of years, living in Europe, the opposite has been true for me.  Summer is short-lived.  It is a time when days are super-long (sometimes we have sixteen hours of sunshine per day) and our small town comes to life.  There are parties, festivals, water sports and all kinds of stuff to do.  I used to take these things for granted because after summer would end here, I'd just hop back on a flight to South Africa, just in time to catch the beginning of summer there.  And so it went on... Until last year when I experienced my first winter in Dalmatia.  Granted, it isn't nearly as cold or dreary as further up north (I've spent winters in London and Zagreb), but it's depressing nevertheless.  When the harsh winds hit us last year we were unprepared.  My husband trudged on, going out to chop wood to stuff our furiously hungry fireplace.  If the temperature in the room dropped below 24°C, I began to shiver.  For much of this time, I could be found rolled up in a tight ball under a blanket on the sofa right next to the fireplace in our kitchen.  It wasn't pleasant.

A reason for my discomfort was that I had slowly been slipping into depression since summer of that year.  So, it felt worse when I realised that it had gotten cold and horrible, and I hadn't even taken the time to enjoy the summer while it was there.  At the time it was almost impossible to imagine that summer would come again.

It did and it was wonderful.  This year we opened up our home to guests from all around the world.  We made new friends, and I finally started talking to my neighbours.  We had fun, swam, went on boat trips, walked to the beach, and visited nearby towns.  Now, for autumn and winter, we'll be taking hikes and enjoying the quietness, until the rush of summer hits us again next year.

Lately I've been feeling somewhat groggy.  The shorter days, rain, and disappearing sun has awakened an anxiety in me.  "What if this winter will be like last winter?"  I panic a bit before I realise that it can't possibly be.  We're more prepared now.  My husband has been working to fix the leaks in our ceiling, we have better clothing (European winters are not at all like South African winters), and I am not in the middle of an acute depressive episode.  There will be things to enjoy this year.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression associated with late autumn and winter.  That's not what I had, but some people do suffer from it.  I guess we could say that it's a serious (and medical) case of the "winter blues".  In order to beat such feelings, I've instead opted to enjoy different versions of a song I love that adequately describes how I feel.

Here come the Autum Leaves.

The version I first fell in love with...

Doris Day has always been a favourite of mine...

My favourite version.  I love Edith Piaf!

Another beautifully melancholic version...

Of course Barbara had to do her own version too...

Now that we've had a moment to appreciate each artist's rendition of this classic (and there are many, many more on YouTube), perhaps even cry a bit; we can safely move on and look for all the beauty in autumn.  Tranquility, colourful leaves, and good reasons to stay indoors.  I'm thinking hot chocolate, sizzling polenta porridge, fruit teas, movies, rich vegetable soup, and dancing to the music that I love will do the trick.

Maja Dezulovic

My Two Favourite Therapists - Music and Lyrics

"'Cause music's been my therapy
Taking the pain from all my anatomy
Oh and my anatomy
It's my symphony, always stayed with me"
- Marvin Gaye, Turn On Some Music

I love music.  From a young age, I was exposed to my father's swing and jazz, and my mother's love for eighties ballads and R&B.  My sister and I had a ritual of watching musicals, and I enjoyed listening to the tracks in movies.  Most of the first CDs I bought were OSTs because I was fascinated by the way the music came together with the pictures to enhance the stories.  For a short while, I followed the top hits around the world every weekend, listening to the countdown on the radio, but as I grew older I also became less interested in pop music.

I deviated back to what I'd been exposed to before I started worrying about what was cool - music from the movies, old rock, love songs, disco, and jazz.  From there I used the internet to explore different types of music in order to embrace what I loved.  Music's been with me while I've been happy, cheerfully dancing around and singing along; and it's been with me when I was down, crying softly to the tunes with my ear pressed against the radio speaker (until my parents let me have earphones).

I find so much meaning in music.  I've always wanted to make my own music, but I never ventured beyond writing simple lyrics, some terrible singing, and second level adult piano.  As I spend an increasing amount of time on the things I love, it's only natural for me to fall back on music.  So I'm singing, dancing, writing lyrics, and composing. I'm saving up for that piano, and I'm dedicating this week's posts to music.

Maja Dezulovic