For Iain Duncan Smith, Ode to the Death of Another Benefit Scrounger


I read the news, today

Glasgow writer killed

By the hand

That did not feed him

A suicide statistic

Soon to be forgotten

Like the books

He laboured hard to write

Which no one cares to read

 

And sitting outside Wetherspoons

Alongside my companionable

Cigarettes and alcohol

I contemplate

The minister of The State

Who one day

Will withdraw

My disability living allowance

Because I can crawl

More than 2 metres

And write

Bloody awful poetry

 

I am the common word

More Smith

Than Plath

Pretentious enough

To be proud

To be working class

 

And, suddenly, life seems…

…like perpetual misery

And I become the future statistic

I do not want to be

 

Meanwhile…

Occupying his inflaming

Twin towers of ivory

Plated over-privilege

And steely mouthed

Prosthetic political power

The star player

In Cameron’s corrupted cabinet

Of party members

Porn players, all

And secretarial back (side)

Slappers

A stabber

Of the foulest form

Opens his whoring mouth

And laughs

 

Like Lucifer on crack

His Machiavellian throat

Issues sound that even Tony

Bastard bliar, bliar

After dinner speaker tones for hire

Cannot rival

 

Like a converse Jon Snow

Turned to Tory slush

He is the illegitimate

Legitimate product

Of an ideological game

Of thrones

And human slaughter

 

United Kingdom

Lock up your sick and disabled

Sons and daughters

Iain Duncan Smith

Is on the hunt

Pheasant is so last season’s

Prey

New labour’s elected

Sunday lunch

 

Human flesh

Is more appetising

These post-imperialistic

McSalad and fries days

 

With I.D.S. on my mind

I board the bus home

Grateful to still have money

In my pocket

And no student payback loan

 

But when I arrive home

I open the door

And staring back at me

From a crimson mat

Is a letter

Marked

Department of Work and Pensions

 

I take out a blade

And with a frenzied slash

The sullied brown envelop

Bleeds ink

Red as the gash

Adorning my wrist

 

I tear myself to pieces

Then I light a cigarette

Between

Slices

Of my orange peel fingers tips

 

Ode to the death of another

Benefit scrounger

Homage to the demise

Of a seated disco dancer

And an inverted snob

DO PARANOID ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC DICKS?


Do Paranoid Androids Dream of Electric Dicks?

By

Louise M. Hart

A week ago…

 

I don’t know what I do

Or don’t think

My thoughts are peasants

Revolting

In a hollow pit of consciousness

Guarded

By agents of truth

 

My eyes burn like cigarettes

Concealing my tears

Like smokescreens

Before ideas

Ripped

From indiscrete tongues

 

My pain is as bespoken

As my heart

Bleeding shamefully

Into a world of words

That should remain

Unspoken

And hidden

Like the existence

Of alternate universes

 

My big mouth

Strikes

Again

And like Morrissey

On an amphetamine trip

To writer’s hell

Reading reviews of his latest book

I am swallowed by solid earth

And realise that I am still ill

 

The hospital is no longer

A movie trailer

Blade Runner is terminated

Like reels of my celestial self

Today the Sound of Melancholia

And music

Is screened throughout

My self-projected realm

 

One day, “I’ll be back”

In my delusory spacecraft

Gathering crazy diamonds

Of insight

Beneath my silly poet’s hat

 

But for now…

Whiskers on kittens

Scratch

Until I hurt

So much

I laugh

 

Never fear pain. Claim it and then, let go. Write a poem, paint a picture. Creativity sooths the soul and changes the world.

 

The Nurse


I saw you wrap your cardigan

Around your hips

And wanted to be that cardigan

Binding your hips

My hands reaching for the comforting

Curves

Of your effervescent flesh

 

Playing love tunes

With strands of your hair

As it swept against

The rise and fall

Of your comely breasts

My skin warmed by the scent

Of your measured breaths

And your image strained

Inside

My cavernous thoughts

Like my hand on your flesh

 

I wanted to be

The last word on your tongue

Before you slept

Instead

You opened

Not your cardigan

Legs

But your mouth

And prescribed me a thousand milligrams

Of anti-madness

And an appointment with Dr Hart

Of darkest Ayrshire and Arran

In the first Gaelic Autumn

Of my Anglo –Saxon soul

And spiritual sickness

 

Taking back the Power


I am every colour of the rainbow and many shades in between. I own no label, no label owns me. A diagnostic homo Sapien, my bipolar is not me. I am not disabled, though my condition can be disabling. The rollercoaster is a metaphor I narrate in the blank verse of my behaviour, the discourse of my thought’s disorder and my textual laughs and screams. Bipolar is a creative sickness. Psychiatry is a symptom of an intellectual disease

The Myth of Thomas Szasz


As young person growing-up under the ideological constraints of 1980’s-1990’s Britain, I became reactively interested in a bygone age. The 1960’s ostensibly offered me a model of society in which freedom had seemed, not purely conceptual, but achievable. Thus, I became immersed in the residue of counter-cultural products of a decade, at odds with the ideological emphases of the period of my own youth. During this time of my life, I first became acquainted with the notion of anti-psychiatry, the work of R.D. Laing and David Cooper awakening me to consciousness. It was during this time that I first read, The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz. Having recently heard of Szasz’s death, I promptly revisited his iconic work.

WHAT DO WE DO, WHEN OUR IDOLS BECOME OUR ENEMIES?

“Modern psychiatry dehumanises man by denying…the existence, or even the possibility, of personal responsibility of man as a moral agent.” The Myth of Mental Illness, Szazs (1961)

When I was 20 years old, I longed for the day when humankind would be free from the forces of oppression. When I was 20 years old, Szasz’s text told me that man was inherently free. Why, I asked myself, if we were free, was self-expression punishable by The State?
Szasz distinguishes between physical and mental ill health. For him, mental health issues derive from the mind’s interpretation of the problems of life. Thus, mental illness becomes a metaphor for our inability to cope with the demands of reality. Grounded in, “The real,” distress becomes our escape mechanism.
Today, I understand why Szazs’s ideas attracted me. Man is a moral agent and the focus for change; we are greater than The State. Psychiatry has been utilised as a tool to undermine the powerfulness of our true nature and assaults our basic human rights. The psychiatric patient is not beyond reason, she is subject to the coercion of The State.

However, my more mature mind has prompted me to reappraise his arguments. Now, when I read his work, I am aware of the reactionary behind his libertarian guise. For separating physical and mental health, not only sets up binary opposition but, supports right wing notions about personal responsibility; if those experiencing psychological distress are not ill, they are as accountable for their actions and behaviour as all others. The logical conclusion to this argument is that people affected by mental health issues should not be entitled to State benefits or even treated differently by the judicial system.
As a liberal, these ideas are repugnant to me. I believe it somewhat ironic that one time arguments of the idealistic left have been appropriated by the repressive Conservative government of today.
Reading Szasz again, has reminded me of the importance of his contribution to moral philosophy and my own naivety at the age of 20.

Neurosis is made not born


My recent preoccupation with thoughts of how I have wasted the last 20 years of my life, has led me to consider the plight of those who have been unable to pull themselves out of the abyss of despair. Like approximately 1 in 4 people, I am affected by mental health issues. I would argue that principally I am not a survivor of illness but a mental health system which, from its inception, has consciously appropriated and promoted misogynistic ideas and practices. Whilst men are equally oppressed by the tools pf psychiatry, differential narratives about sex and gender have determined differences in the nature and outcome of the treatment of women and men psychiatric patients.
Any discussion about women and mental health should be framed in a historical context. The concept of “mental illness” is the historically specific conceptualization of the notion formerly known as madness; lack of reason is re-defined by science. Men prescribe, whilst women eat the pills of their labour.
Hippocrates, the Father of medicine, first associated the notion of hysteria with female psychology. Women were perceived in relation to our biology, we were beyond the pale and out of our minds. Ironically, the first practitioner to extend the definition of hysteria into the male domain, was Freud. The founder of psychoanalysis who, correlated female hysteria with sexual dysfunction, also differentiated between neurotic and psychotic disorders, establishing the prototype for the contemporary diagnostic model of mental ill health. Whilst history indicates that features of psychotic illness have always existed, the nature of neuroses has changed in relation to socio-historic and cultural changes.
In 2013, studies in Britain and America indicate that mental health issues are more prevalent among women than men. Do wombs dictate moods? Is anxiety the product of menstruation? Why, if this is the case, do cross-cultural studies reveal that there are many societies in which mental health conditions, like anxiety and anxiety, affecting so many in western capitalist society are virtually non-existent.
I would argue that, although gender roles and expectations may nowadays appear more fluid, the contradictions and complexities of life in the western world have complicated both our social roles and the way in which we perceive ourselves. Anxiety is a reaction to life in the 21st century, the metamorphosis of hysteria and counter-point to self actualization. Thus, it is fear, that gnawing worm in the mind, that impedes our will to become. Realizing that we all have the ability to re-define, not only our own reality, but the entire social realm is the first step to recovery. No one is mere body, we are possessed of the consciousness to discover and appropriate our own hidden power.

Knots: The Poetry of R. D. Laing


In the pre-psychotic realm of my youth, I discovered the works of Scottish (anti) psychiatrist R. D. Laing. His seminal offering, The Divided Self (1960), became for a time, my Bible, offering me reassurance that my deeply held fear of madness was proof of my sanity. A few years later, I remember, during my chaotic career as an undergraduate, sitting at a table of my university refectory, smoking and drinking an innumerable coffee. Poised on a wave of my own sense of urgency, I knew not whether to retreat from or entreat with words the grizzled middle-aged, presence who reclined in the seat opposite me. Soon, my dilemma was resolved; the presence spoke. Complete with perfectly crumbled Scottish vowels and the scrag-end of a roll-up, he introduced himself and told me that he lectured in psychology. Immediately interested, I began to converse and confessed to him my fascination with all things Laingian. To my great delight, he claimed that he had worked with Laing and eyes twinkling, rasped, “The trouble with Ronny was…like many of us, he couldn’t resist a pretty girl.” I never spoke to the man again, confining him to the annals of lecherous old devilment. However, whenever I ruminate about my first and only hero of psychiatry, I smile at the memory of meeting someone who had known him, smug in the knowledge that we all are only one handshake away from greatness.
Whilst, R. D. Laing’s (1927-1989) most widely read writings are books detailing psychological analyses of psychosis. He, also, intruded upon the sacred soil of poetry. His 1970 volume, Knots, operates most successfully as an encoding of his ideas in the loosely defined form of poetry. The text is divided into five sections which can be read as individual dialogues or mini play-lets. Ultimately, a deconstruction of relationships, the “knots” of the title connote impasses; the conflicting passage of the Western interpersonal being. For in our relationships with others, subjectivity is both defined and denied.
Stylistically dense to the point of being terse, on first reading Knots may appear irritatingly abrupt and lacking in the artifice of rhythmic mellifluousness and beauteous language. However, the circuitous dialogue merely reinforces Laing’s notion that relationships are constricted by the production of thoughts, which lead to neurotic beliefs, which, eventually become interpreted in our behaviour and ensuing relationships. Although, the book is not entirely successful as a work of poetry, it offers many insights into the psychology of relationships. As someone who has been profoundly affected by Laing’s theories about the, “family nexus,” whereby family life was deemed accountable for the presence and sustenance of psychosis,
I particularly enjoyed the first part of the book. For, here, his views about the injunctions of the family are most fully transcribed.

The General Paralysis of Sanity, by Louise M. Hart


My first published novel,”The General Paralysis of Sanity,” represents the summation and completion of twenty years experience as a mental health service-user. I wrote the novel during the aftermath of, and as a reaction to, the trauma I had experienced as an in-patient of a psychiatric hospital, prisoner of mental health day-centres and (dis)charge of nurses. Sub-textually, the novel is my story-a story whose full horror will never be told. The content, however, belongs to the creation of Cat-Hater, my anti-hero, whose consciousness unfolds in the text, like the fragile wing of a butterfly released from the cruelty and inevitability of fate.
I named my character Cat-Hater, not to, “moggy bash” (my own cat features on the cover!) but, as an allusion to a character created by Philip K. Dick’s gargantuan, creative brain; “Horseloverfat,” is the star of his fantastic and mind-blowing novel, “Valis.” Ending here, however, are comparisons to Phil Dick’s work, his preoccupation with the dichotomy between madness and sanity merely reflects my own and constitutes the central theme of my book.
The reader embarks upon a psychical but bumpy ride, during which s/he glimpses the mind of someone experiencing a relapse into psychosis. Frequent lapses into interior monologues merge with depictions of an outer realm which, condemns and sentences Cat-Hater to the imprisonment of hospital. It is, however, the content of the hospital scenes, which enliven the plot and flesh-out the characters I have created. For, at this point I portray the formation of relationships between Cat-Hater and the other patients and introduce the secondary character of the novel, Nurse Parry.
Although Nurse Parry possesses all the complexities of Cat-Hater and is necessarily all flesh and blood in terms of the qualities she brings to the book, I must confess, that she was brought to life to personify the unachievable nature of complete and pure reason and rationality. The reader enters her life and inner being and experiences the illusion of being sane.
Despite its thematic darkness and painful subject matter, my psychiatrist tells me that the book is, “very funny,” and I think many people who have spent time in psychiatric hospitals will recognise elements of themselves and others in the characters and situations I describe. If you have a spare moment you can order it online from amazon or chipmunkapublishing or even request that your local book shop stocks it. Why not indulge and release your pain. Will it all end happily or will life’s imprint linger and ache?

Lessons Learned


Having completed a regular shift at a charity bookshop, I, now, feel cold and tired. The wind on the west coast of Scotland is a savage beast which can almost knock even the sturdiest of citizens off their feet and bites into the very hearts of our resilience. In the Wintertime, when the pestilence of chill and rain consumes all, but those possessed of fur coats and an iron will, it is easy to let depression strike. I shall resist; when he raises his hand, I will retaliate with blows to the keys of my laptop. I laugh within, when I consider the change in my disposition.
Twenty years wasted as a mental health service-user. Twenty years in which I experienced a side of life many either do, or wish that they did, not understand. These twenty years have taught me many lessons, some of which I would like to share.

1. Medication helps ease the symptoms of mental distress, it does not cure. Uncovering the causes of distress is hard work but, not impossible. Although psychological interventions can be useful for many people, ultimately, one has to want to recover and master the skills of mental independence.
2. Psychiatrists are as fucked-up as the rest of the human race. They have merely learned the skills of presentation.
3. Mental health workers do not REALLY care (they are doing a job, some of them very well) but can be very useful to talk to and fill-in forms!
4. Most day-centres/hospitals operate a policy of containment. They exist to monitor service-users, ensuring that we do not cross those deadly lines of demarcation. In the short-term, they can open-up the possibility of peer support. However, in the long-term, they perpetuate apathy which, is often misinterpreted to be a consequence of negative symptomology.
5. Mental health service users often flock together, like birds with tarnished wings. This is because they are socially excluded. Many have little or no family support and the companionship of friends. They do not deserve your pity or ridicule, their group friendships are indicative of a truly human (and rational) need to counteract loneliness and be accepted.
6. Recovery from mental health issues is a relative concept. If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you are doing okay. You do not need to be earn 100,000 a year or train to run a marathon. The book which you have always planned to write, can be written tomorrow, next year or even…never. For, even possessing the wish to write, is suggestive of the will to live. LEARN TO EXIST AND YOU WILL START TO LIVE.

I have been humbled by the support for my blog and would like to thank my followers for reading and commenting. If you have been affected by anything I have written, please contact me. I am available on facebook and twitter or you could simply subscribe to my blog. I intend to write my next post on my novel and invite you all you to learn about its themes and contents.

My Life: The Road to being Published


There is a widely held conception that everybody, “has a book, in them.” Whilst this could not be more true, most people do not write that book. I have spent my life desirous to fulfil my ambition to become a writer. Never content to be a just a person who scribbled poems upon the backs of envelopes and delineated my thoughts in notebooks framed in psychedelic doodles, I yearned for the validation of my creative spirit and to see my name in print. Now, that I have achieved this, I know that I will do so many more times. This is the beginning of a new stage in my life, a life from which I used to hide, in shame.
My first novel, “The General Paralysis of Sanity,” started life as an exercise in catharsis. Years ago, after my last and particularly traumatic admission to a psychiatric hospital, I released my pain in literary productivity. Writing my novel became a forum for encoding my negative experiences in the guise of the creation of a character who was blatantly not myself. Although not autobiographical, my novel borrowed and reconstituted elements of myself. Writing it was not always easy but, after each session on my laptop I felt rewarded and more self-confident than before I had started.
Lifestyle changes meant that I moved location and ended up living across the borders in Scotland, where serendipity surfaced and I started to see a psychiatrist who was unusually literary in his interests. Not only was Dr H interested in my novel, he actually wanted to read it. Thus, began the tides of change…
He seemed genuinely surprised that someone with my history of psychiatric suffering should be capable of writing with lucid insight about the nature of mental distress. I have always believed that he suspected that cognitive impairment would undermine my literary ability but, I have been determined not to allow my “illness” to destroy, “the real me.” Dr H claimed that my work should be published and, subsequently, gave me the details of the foremost publisher of books by people who have experienced mental health problems. I emailed my book to Chipmunkapublishing and, the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, I not only await the imminent publication of my first collection of poetry, I am, also, engaged in writing another novel. In fact I am re-engaged with life.