How Poetry Saved My Sanity

Having a disability really, really sucks on a number of levels, but the one I want to discuss today is what I like to call: The Invisibility Factor. 

"What is the Invisibility Factor?" You might ask. 

No worries, my dear friend, I will tell you. 

The toughest thing about having a malformed-disfunctional-agony-inducing-screwed-up spine for me was the I.F., meaning that no one could actually see what was wrong with me. I mean, besides my goofy/dorky looking face I appeared to be an unquestionably normal healthy kid, but as you know I wasn't it. 

Like I wrote in my essay "Pain Reveals You" ( I got angry looks from people while riding on the bus when I didn't give up my seat for an elderly person. One time I was at Mento Brown walking with Darth Vader (aka: my father) and I repeatedly had to sit down for breaks because my back was killing me. This old granny came up to me and Darth Vader and said: Get off your butt! Stop being so lazy! 


I forced a smile at her, but boy was my mind thinking some other things that weren't so very high on the Politeness Scale of What Proper Young Ladies Must Think. I wanted to yell at her. I wanted to scream out at the top of my lungs to the world: My spine is f***ed up! Just leave me the (insert curse word here) alone! 

Obviously this was very frustrating. 

Well, Senior year rolled around and I was in AP English and we were analyzing poems like crazy! Like until-my-brain-started-sizzling-like-patties-on-the-grill crazy! Well, as a break Mrs. McElliott made us write our own poem and analyze it. (Just to let you know, I was through with my first back surgery and doing well at this point in my life. It was at the beginning of my senior year and I had no idea what hell lay before me.) I had no idea what to write...

And then it hit me. 
Write something personal. 
Something painful. 
Write about back surgery! 

So here is my first poem I wrote about my pain and what back surgery was all about. 

"Back Surgery"

Vertebras crackling as the screws dig in,
Plunging their malicious fangs deep into the depths of my spine,
Anguished hands, black and blue from the satanic needles that six times found no vein,
Venomous morphine pervades my body like liquid fire,
Blistering my veins without a care in the world,
Liquid seeping through the severed skin and icy staples,
Dampening the several layers of gauze tapped to my back,
Catheter jammed vehemently between my legs,
Muscles tense, uncertain of the current events,
Unceasing spasms rippling across my body,
Screaming out for mercy as if I had the means to conclude this hellish agony,
Furrowed eyebrows, hardened jaw,
Trying to be brave, but failing deep inside,
God make this stop!

I also got the chance to read this aloud to my class and it was an amazing opportunity. To release this pain out into the word, to be able to share and describe an experience many people will (fortunately) never have to endure. 
And then their response... everyone was so quiet and pale... it was fantastic. I made them feel! 

After that, this poem writing thing got addictive. 

When my back started going downhill and my two titanium screws cracked completely in half I was in hell. Literally hell. And that hell, my dear friend, was my body itself. BUT NO ONE COULD SEE IT. NO ONE COULD FEEL WHAT I FELT. It killed me. 
I hated looking into my parents' eyes and seeing the anguish they felt for not being able to do anything for me. It was awful. Absolutely awful. 
I realized then that I had to keep writing. I had to tell them what it was like. I had to vent and vent and vent because if I didn't, it'd stay inside me, swirling like poison with the rest of my pain. I had to rid my mind of pain. I had to put it on paper. 
So, I kept a diary beside my bed and wrote more poems during the evening, mostly because I couldn't sleep. The pain got so bad during the night that, at times, I was literally too exhausted to cry, but I had to document the pain. Had to show that even though I wasn't crying and screaming out in agony I was still suffering. I couldn't let that malicious Invisible Demon of Pain fool those around me. 

In my Creative Writing class with Ms. Anderson I decided to write a poem about my battle with medication, especially during school. To take or not to take? It was a question I had to ask myself everyday before I left home. If I didn't take the pills then I'd have to deal with the pain, which wasn't the better option. 

You can listen to me read it here:


I stare down at the pills waiting impatiently in the palm of my hand,
To take or not to take: that is the question,
I cringe as the pain plunges its deadly fangs deep into my spine,
Releasing venom that will surely weaken its prey,
I crush my teeth together, jaw muscles burning, to keep from screaming,
My mother smiles at me and I force a smile back,
I don’t want her to know how bad it really is,
She shouldn’t have to suffer along with me,
I force myself to unravel my fingers from her ankles,
To stop from dragging her further underneath the surging waves,
Because I need to drown alone,
The broken screws grind against one another,
Titanium teeth cutting their way from the inside out,
I cringe again,
My eyes clamp shut and I deal with this misery, this hell within my body,
I open my lids and stare down at the pills a second time,
My throat tightens,
To take or not to take: that is the question,
These white, round, circular doctor prescribed things are the key to ending this agony,
Take them already! A voice in my head cries out for mercy,
I want to but if I do I slip down into another dark hole,
A hole not known to many,
If I take these pills my world is played in slow motion,
These pills will weigh me down and I don’t know why,
My mind becomes dizzy,
And the world spins around me,
Around and around,
Causing severe nausea,
I can’t think,
I try to speak, but can’t find my lips,
Every sound becomes an irritation,
The clattering of silverware,
The footsteps of those around me,
The useless words spoken by others,
It. All. Bugs. Me,
Makes me mad because these pills, these god-awful pills make you hate the world,
Anger pulses through me as I stare down at my medicine,
To take or not to take: that is the question.

Later, while on summer vacation, my younger cousin asked me what the pain was like? And it really made me think some more. I tried to figure out a way to better explain it to people and the one word that kept popping up in my head to perfectly describe the major theme of it all was: Claustrophobic.  I wrote this poem in my journal, while I was waiting for my plane at the John Wayne Airport. 

You can listen to me read it here:

"What it is Like"

What is it like?
It’s inescapable,
Claustrophobic even,
You can run all you want,
Try to leave it behind you,
Somewhere far away,
Where you think it can’t hurt you,
Drown it with drugs,
Pretend it’s not there,
But this only makes it madder,
It sinks its fangs deep into your flesh,
Reminding you that you can’t win,
That it will always be there,
Its venom surges through your body,
Blistering your veins and weakening your soul,
Your steps falter,
Knees buckle,
A cry works it way out your throat so that you can be heard,
Saved maybe?
But this does no good,
They stare at you helplessly,
Like bystanders looking through prison bars,
As you squirm and shudder,
Trying to shake off the spasms,
That ripple across your body,
Possessed by this invisible devil known as pain,
And that, my dear friend, is what it is like.  

Writing these poems throughout these dark days literally saved my sanity and possibly my life. Had I not written them I probably would have gone super crazy and... I don't even want to know what I would have done, but something not good. 
If you are going through an incredibly troubling time right now I STRONGLY URGE you to find something that will let you express yourself. Something that will let you vent and rid some of that nastiness out of your system. And it doesn't have to be writing, it could be anything. The choice is up to you. 
Your pain doesn't have to be invisible...

These are my thoughts for the night.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."


  1. It's crazy how much I relate with you... I remember my junior year. For the majority of it I was on Vicodin. That was NOT, in any way, fun. Luckily I had a teacher that really cared about me and helped me through it. However, it was hard to take the pills. It made me feel completely hidden and nothing like myself. It's nice to know you're not alone though. Knowing you've been through similar makes me feel like... Well I'm not sure how to describe it, but I think you know :b Thank you for everything :D

  2. I know what you're trying to get at Laura and I can't really explain it either, but I'm sincerely glad that you connected with my words and that they somehow inspired you to keep pushing through. It makes me feel like sharing my pain and troubles is actually making a difference and that I should continue doing it. Elie Wiesel (a survivor of the Holocaust, I believe) once said: Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty.
    Pain is a b****, but with stubborn diligence you will prevail. I promise you that. :)


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