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A Poem for Those with Mental Illness

People like to describe illness with metaphors.

Generalized anxiety is buzzing TV static in your brain.

Bipolar disorder is riding a roller coaster of moods.

Depression is drowning in Novocain.

Self-harm is screaming into a megaphone pointed at yourself.

Suicide is a leaping catastrophically into the unknown.


People don’t live figuratively.

People live literally.

No one is laboriously suffering under a figurative illness.


A series of facts is mental illness.

Brain chemicals and neurotransmitters, genes and alleles,

symptoms, behaviors, patterns of thought,

treatments and medications (side-effects),

trial(s) and of error—

inexact science applied liberally.


Tragically beautiful metaphors?


Painfully mundane realities?



A ball curled up tightly.

The isolation of a darkened bedroom down the hall.

Loneliness demarcated by periodic bursts of sobs.

The quite literal force pressing down upon a chest, unparalleled by the weight of the covers.


It is real.


An awareness that the body has been here before

(choking, gasping, clenching, scratching, pulling,

blood-shot itchy, snot-soaked sticky, bare-armed bloody);

creates a doubt that the mind ever left.



With the escapable sense that your literal will always be perceived as someone else’s figurative.


Hi guys! I'm Holly, and I'm a writer for HerCampus at Illinois State. My interests includes feminism, superheroes, books, movies, tv shows, food, and puppies! As you can see, I enjoy a pretty eclectic range of things, but most importantly I'm just a regular college girl trying to live her best life. :)
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