The Cleanse

For weeks, I couldn’t write. Embalmed with television and pizza rolls, I was completely resigned to that feeling of pathetic stasis. After a week of nothing but cold rain, I began to feel physically sick, nauseated every day for no real reason other than the lack of sunlight and movement.

On that Friday, I felt the overwhelming need to get out. I had to escape the house, the city, had to get far away. I don’t what it was, but I felt a panic attack was imminent if I didn’t get in the car and drive. I begged my husband to take me anywhere, I didn’t care how far or how boring. I’m not a huge fan of driving with no sense of direction, but I love discovering new places and will happily sit in the passenger seat with a book or a camera out the side window.

As we drove west, into Minnesota and up through Stillwater, I felt the doldrums dripping away. It was amazing to let the windows roll down a bit, look out over the Mississippi, and talk to my husband: about life, about poetry, about the projects I’ve been wanting to work on. By the time we found a little coffee shop (for me) and two old train cars next to a candy shop (for husband and our five-year-old son), I had already written two new poems. It wasn’t much, they weren’t very good, but I had written myself out of a major block.

When you’ve struggled with depression, you can usually feel when you’re backsliding into it. And if the circumstances are right (or wrong, as it were) that slide can be quick, debilitating, physically painful. I am lucky that I was able to escape and that that escape was exactly what I needed. By removing myself from the place that I felt was strangling me, I was able to return to it with renewed strength. It wasn’t long, a few hours, but sometimes a poet (or any writer, or any person, really) needs a newness, however fleeting, to accept the old, the status quo, the “normal.” A breath, not of fresh air, but different air, in order to continue breathing at all.

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