Thoughts from the Depths/Thoughts from the Here and Now
Thoughts from the Depths/Thoughts from the Here and Now mental illness stories

jamesmesservy Ordinary bloke
Autoplay OFF   •   2 years ago
Two poems following the same structure. Written 18 months apart. The first, the bleak depths of despair, the second, a counterpoint from a contented mind

Thoughts from the Depths/Thoughts from the Here and Now

The Depths

The carpet has been worn down by countless pacing feet; ancient, unidentifiable stains overlap across its institutional pattern.

The built-in desk is covered in chipped and mismatched veneer.

To door has no lock.

The air conditioner whistles and roars ceaselessly through a tiny vent, high off the floor.

The fluorescent light gives the custard yellow walls a pustulent sheen.

No sound from the outside world reaches this sad little chamber.

An occasional scream of anguish penetrates from down the corridor.

This cold, institutional space is strangely free of echoes, as if sound waves lose the will to propagate through the filtered and conditioned air

Card readers beep, electronic locks clack, doors slam and footsteps pass by my door

These sounds all accompanied by the ever-present hissing shriek from the vent high in the wall.

My eyes are stinging and heavy from crying.

My ears crave silence.

My mind screams for peace.

My heart yearns for a warm embrace.

What's left of my soul is reeling and bewildered.

My thoughts flit and dart through snippets of memory like a Willy Wagtail chasing insects through shadowed branches.

A momentary distraction as my evening cocktail of pills is delivered in the finest of disposable plastic cups.

Alone again with my perfidious thoughts.

Was I born this way?

Did I miss a step in the recipe, a crucial ingredient?

Did I stir when I should have folded?

Did I whip when I should have beaten?


Yes, I am.

Beaten by the system, by bullies careless, ruthless and clueless.

Beaten by myself, by expectation, by the need to succeed, to exceed, to live up, to live just live.

Looking back on my life through shit coloured glasses.

Was happiness real or imagined?

How did I get so far along the path of this life without realising that I'm doing it wrong?

Has everybody been nudging their neighbour and pointing at the idiot holding the book upside down, looking through the camera with the lens cap on, with his pants on inside out?

Have they smiled and humoured the idiot in their midst?

How is it so easy for them?

How is it they can go to work, swing a wrecking ball through somebody's psyche, win a promotion and pat on the back, slash another colleague down at the knees,

all while booking their next holiday in the Greek Islands?

How did I end up here, in this sad little room haunted by the ghosts of anguish past and present?

Fighting a pitched battle against my own mind, winner take all, to lose is to die.

I listen carefully, but there are no answers in the air conditioner's white noise.

The Rorschach Test of stains in the carpet have revealed no meaning.

The screamer has started again, but I can discern no great wisdom within the tormented shrieking.

So, I sit. Alone in this room that has witnessed a thousand little deaths and wait for sleep.

The Here and Now

Beads of sunlight dance across the warmly patterned rug in a joyful play of light and shadow

Two slumbering dogs pool at my feet while a gently purring kitten lies stretched along my thigh

A cool draft teases my hair

The dishwasher’s thumps play rhythm section to the fridge’s monotonous hums

The latte coloured walls glow with soft warmth in the autumn sun

Bird song and the distant bellow of cows float in on the breeze

An occasional rustle reaches my ears; newly discarded leaves skating on the pavement outside

This familiar, comfortable space exudes warmth and love, as if the years of children’s laughter create antibodies to the pathogens of stress and despair

Clocks tick, blinds rattle in the breeze, distant dogs bark and cars whisper past the front door

These sounds accompanied by the ever-present rhythmic pulse from the purring cat at my side

My eyes are heavy with relaxed weariness

My ears delight to the quiet music of the suburbs

My mind is quiet

My heart beats strong and slow

My soul is replete and still

My thoughts, like a faithful, aging hound, wander through fields of memory, stopping to savour the rich scents of a

life well lived

A momentary distraction as a poodle puddled at my feet yips excitedly at dream butterflies

Quiet again, my thoughts drift

Was I born to achieve greatness?

Have I fulfilled my potential?

Am I sufficiently focussed and driven by ambition?

Have I done enough to make an impression?


Yes, I have

I have made an impression on my daughters’ values, their ability to love, laugh and be strong, resilient and


I have made an impression through every interaction, relationship and experience, just as life itself, in all its

wonder and pain, has left its impression on me.

Looking back on my life through crystal clear lenses

Is success a constant, defined by society?

How did I allow myself for so long to accept society’s definition of success and strive for something that had no value in my world?

Does everybody judge success by title, by wealth, by power and influence over others?

Does the pursuit of this success lead to fulfillment and meaning?

Why is it so hard for people to care for their fellow humans?

How is it they can strive endlessly for the brass ring of success, for wealth and power, all while feeling empty,

anxious and terrified that some ill-defined ‘other’ will take what is rightfully theirs?

How can they genuinely love their children, friends, parents and siblings, those within their ‘tribe’ and yet live in contempt and fear of those without?

How did I end up here, in this familiar, quiet room haunted by love and laughter?

Contemplating the world and my place in it.

After so long, I understand; success is ours to define.

The sum of my pain, joy, conflict and passion has led to this place and time.

My success is having a wife with whom I can share everything, who can finish my sentences and read my moods.

My success is raising three daughters who love themselves and others, who respect themselves and others and

who will be strong, compassionate women.

My success is raising three daughters who will define and live their own success.

So, I sit. In this room that has witnessed a thousand moments of my family’s ordinary life and I’m thankful.

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