I’ve said this before, but I will say it again.
Over the years, I’ve been very open about having bipolar disorder (bipolar II, for you detail-oriented folks). I’ve been treated, had therapy for years, been on meds, spent a little time in-patient, etc. I’ve had suicidal ideation since I was a kid, and have made a few attempts. I’m open about it, and I do on occasion deal with the subject in my poetry. It’s a chronic condition that has played a large part in defining the parameters of my life and my world view.
However, taking any poem I write as a sign that I am at that moment in some kind of distress is really, really not conducive to understanding how I work, and is in fact pretty reductive of my work as an artist. Something you can be sure of is that if I’m writing, I’m NOT suicidal, and I’m likely not at that moment in any self-destructive mood at all.
I can’t write when I’m ill. I may write about illness, but it’s ALWAYS in retrospect, or to illuminate something I may have thought about when I was in the middle of an episode. I try to be upfront about how scary that sometimes is, and I hope that now and then someone in a similar state looks at my work and sees someone who “gets it,” but I do not write as therapy for myself. I don’t write when I’m that disordered.
If you typically read poems thinking of them as autobiography, as impassioned outbursts of a tortured or ecstatic soul, I’m asking you to suspend that mindset when you read mine. I’m a professional creative writer who’s been at this for close to 50 years now. I don’t write when inspiration hits or when I need to “let it out.”
Last point: I am not a Christian. I don’t share the source of my personal spiritual belief system with the public; maybe you can discern something of it here and there in the poems, but I don’t make my personal practices and beliefs explicit.
While I appreciate and accept with genuine humility your blessings and prayers when they are offered — gifts are gifts and always welcome — I am uncomfortable with the occasional bit of specifically Christian proselytizing and Bible-based advice that I sometimes receive, especially when people perceive me to be in some distress. (I’d be similarly uncomfortable with anything from the big monotheistic religions, to be honest, but I only ever see this done by Christians, for some reason). Just needed to let you know.
Thanks for listening.