Erosion of Self

Spend twenty years deciding who you are without knowing it.
Get a job, have kids, make jokes about who you’ll be when grown up.
Then one day, you think you’re seeing the doctor for nothing big
(your blood pressure’s too high or low, need to tweak your asthma drugs,
it’s “The Change of Life,” or heck, you’re just getting old, darn it),
and it starts. Confusion, forgetfulness, mood changes, and worse,
your hands shake sometimes (“guess I need some coffee!”), you’ve got a twitch.
Then you realize you don’t recognize yourself. “Damn pills,” you curse,
but that’s the good news, if you see it. You can change or stop pills,
but some folk find the twitch or tremor persists, their nerves cross-wired.
The guy on the bus this morning, unable to just be still,
drummed his foot on the floor, not looking, trying to stop, so tired,
but when he drew his foot underneath, it crept back out in front
and drummed again, his rhythm an unwilling dance: pause, movement.


4 responses to “Erosion of Self

  1. Maybe that guy tapping away was glad he wasn’t feeling too psychotic at the moment. Just think. In the 1950s, maybe even the 1960s he may have been chained to a post with attendants throwing buckets of icy water over him to “subdue” him. It’s still happening in Africa- what they would give for a nice drug to take away those ‘evil spirits’.
    I agree, we have to be very strong to have an essential self that lasts through the different phases of life. A lot of peeps never really do.

    • Meds are very strange things. They can soften psychotic symptoms and provide a space for the psyche to heal. They can also cause psychosis and create the same symptoms. It is a very strange thing to be given a pill that takes away who you always thought you were. That incredibly fragile sense of struggling to be “you,” and knowing that someone else can take that away easily, never again leaves you, you realize that the “you” you identify with is a very fragile construction. When I see someone with visible neuro symptoms like the ones described here, I wonder many things, but mostly who is the person inside the body? What person would he seem to be to observers if he could quiet his body as he is obviously trying to do?

  2. Very deep words. My daughter has an extreme distrust of meds. I see the errosion of self was a good title and a good description of the surprise that comes at 60.

    • I’ve been told this poems is distressing some people. Somehow that surprised me, but I can see it now that it has been pointed out. There are a lot of meds that deserve that extreme distrust, but there are others that are really quite helpful and pretty safe. Unfortunately, these are not the same for each person, which makes things even trickier. Take them when you need to (when it impacts significantly on your quality of life or healing), start with tiny doses, and adjust. There is no perfect world where we stay so healthy our entire life that we can’t be helped by them from time to time.

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