A Journey through Mental Hell, and how Poetry Saved my Life

Melancholy & Cinnamon; A Journey through Mental Hell, and How Poetry Saved my Life

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Listen to Editor in Chief Gabriel Nathan read this story: 

It started with an altercation… Something that triggered me more than I had realized. Some words that I let slide but made me feel like the traumatized child I refused to be. Some words that would change my life forever.

I had a fucked up childhood. This is a fact I had accepted and kind of acknowledged with an unhealthy survival mode that brought me to a mostly good marriage and three children I love.

When I say fucked-up, I mean: alcoholic father with suicidal thoughts. Verbal abuse. Cleaning blood off the walls and feces off the floor. Physical abuse by my grandfather. A loving mother fighting her own demons who then died from cancer in her fifties… Nevertheless, trauma after trauma, I found the strength to push forward and move on, cutting people left and right from a life I needed to build alone to survive and remembering the words my mother would always repeat: “When you don’t feel well, push through…”

So that’s what I was doing and how I dealt with my issues the best…

Until that day.

Until I got triggered back to years of being verbally abused by my alcoholic father while my boundaries to isolate and work through it alone weren’t respected.

To anyone else, their mother-in-law screaming “shut up!” at them at the dinner table in front of their three kids while their husband doesn’t move, would have been a hard “no.” To me… I was used to it from my childhood and I just needed to isolate and work through it to get by… But my wish to be left alone didn’t get respected and there I was having to talk to a woman who was drunk on Scotch after repeating many times I just needed the evening to push through….

I talked to her… I wasn’t fine but I pushed through…

Why did I?
For her to feel better about what happened,
To avoid being called difficult.
For my husband not to be bothered.

I disrespected myself so much that night and what I needed… I never talked to her for me… I knew talking to her was the worse I could do for me… She was still drunk, and her words and her tone of voice are still haunting me while I type these words…

I didn’t forgive my husband for staying quiet, but I pushed through….

I was heartbroken and that evening opened my eyes to what kind of man he was, the marriage I was in, the compliance in which I lived, the person they thought I was and the person I allowed them to see… The unworthiness I attached to my own well-being… But I pushed through…

Then, one week later, the father I hadn’t talked to for twenty years died…

It shook me to the core, but everyone around me kept saying I shouldn’t regret the person he was…. That I shouldn’t be sad after what I had endured with him…. That I had no reason to grieve

​It is a common misconception that we should embrace the death of someone who abused us. As a child, this abuse has been interiorized and has shaped who we become as adult. Even if you cut ties with the abuser, like I did, even if you think you healed from the abuse, when your abuser dies, you are faced with an emptiness towards who you are without this person being alive. Especially when this abuser is a parent because our inner child always hopes to be good enough to be seen and loved. Your demons come back but there are no one to blame anymore…  You want to scream, but it sounds like an echo in the void that is left in your anger, sorrow and other emotions resurging because of the disappearance of someone so important in your life in such a negative way…

So, because everyone said I shouldn’t care, I ignored my inner child screaming to be loved and healed and pushed some more…

This was the beginning of a very long downfall spiral…

I wasn’t fine… Not fine at all and two years later, I believe that is where I should have sought therapy… But again… I pushed through!

And to push through, I started to be distant with my husband, my closest friends and my sister…

I started to walk away from others, hiding behind pretense and building relationships around social media and screens, where no one could see I was pretending to be fine

I became closer to some who were validating my actions and the train wreck I was jumping on… and didn’t listen to the few friends telling me to take a breath and cool down…

I made choices to numb it all… Not alcohol or drugs, but other kind of addiction, attention addiction, social media addiction… My nose was either in my phone or in the books I wrote…

For one year, I didn’t acknowledge the pain, the traumas, the screaming voices inside of my head.

I wasn’t fine but I pretended to be…I was pushing through…

And then the monster I kept feeding became bigger…

If I had always suffered from anxiety, I was now being eaten alive by something else.

I felt like all the wounds I had put a Band-Aid on for over twenty or thirty years were all reopening at the same time.

 

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​My fear of abandonment was gushing the blood of my childhood.

My anxiety about conditional love was spiraling…

My joie de vivre was gone…

My strength was weakening…

The screams were unbearable…

The darkness was the only thing I could see…

And all I could hear were the demons telling me I was nothing, I could never be loved, I was not worth anyone’s time or attention… I wasn’t worth my father’s attention or my husband’s protection, how could I be anything but worthless…

I found every little detail to justify those thoughts and believe my own mind… believe that no one really liked who I was behind the mask of pretense I was wearing.

I hurt people in the process… Lost others… Lost myself… Hurt my own soul… Didn’t see my children were hurting…

The pandemic sped the process… I was spiraling even more being surrounded by my family. I needed to escape, to be alone, to not be here…

It was excruciating.

It was painful.

It was the roar of my depression.

My only desire was to disappear…

By December 2020, one full year and a couple of months after the altercation that changed everything, I was only the shadow of myself, and only a couple of friends realized and addressed it… (My husband was oblivious.)

With everything my life had been, I had never planned a way to die… In late November and early December 2020, I came very close. One night all was planned… I wanted to stop suffering. I wanted to stop the screams. I wanted to stop thinking…

I’ll be always grateful to the one who talked to me without knowing where I was at… That night, he saved my life. Thank you, O.

The next morning is when I decided to try one last thing… THERAPY.

I started to look around for someone that could help. Someone to whom I could tell everything. Someone that could show me a path to take…

In the meantime, my best friend pushed me to think about releasing my first poetry book hoping it will give me something else to focus on…

And that is when I started to write poems for a second poetry book about my journey in mental hell…

Since I was nine, poetry has always been my outlet to get out of whatever was happening at home…. But end of 2020, beginning of 2021, it literally saved my life…

Poem after poem, I wrote my demons of paper. Session after session, I worked on my traumas.

Day after Day, I tried to find a reason to continue to live.
The road has been hectic and not all paved with healing intentions.

People have left the sinking ship of my life because my journey didn’t serve them.
Some friends have shown their true colours. Others have helped me through it and opened their arms.

As I write these lines, a lot has happened, and I still stumble into sadness over everything I have lost in 2021 but I mostly focus on myself and have learned to set boundaries and not believe my own thoughts…

I have learned that people all deal with their trauma differently and some don’t want to deal with it at all. I don’t blame anyone… I was the same for many years.

I have learned that healing is a lonely and painful road, but it’s my own. Feel, hurt, process, let go…

And if my poetry book, Melancholy & Cinnamon; a journey through mental hell, isn’t my whole path towards the healed version of myself, it is a part of me at my lowest. It depicts the nonlinear voyage I took through darkness and how I found my way to the weakest light. It’s a testimony of hope with some triggering poems. It’s a journal of the ups and downs of life. It’s a book I read again when I need to realize all the work I did and where I am now…

And if sometimes everything is still too heavy, too hard, too fresh, too raw, I am better. I am not pushing through anymore. I feel my pain, I feel my sorrow, I feel the darkness and know it is not defining who I am, who I was and who I want to become.

Through poetry and therapy, I have found a bubble of air I held onto until I could breathe again…

Therapy has been rough. Because I saw my father popping pills with a mix of alcohol for all my childhood, medication is a trigger for me. So, I refused to take any. I also stopped drinking or looking for any other way maladaptive to escape. Week after week, I have been going and untangle the roots of my childhood, and the repercussions in my life, my relationships, my choices and, more or less, everything I do. I have been called out many times and cried buckets of tears. I’ve had sessions that exhausted me and others when I was so closed off, I couldn’t speak about anything but my cat. And it’s okay. Healing takes time and must be done to my own pace.

Months later, while the sun weakens again and we mark the almost two-year mark of an incident that changed everything for me, I am glad to see the light in the morning and be able to get up with the hope today will be a little bit better. And the day it is not, I am okay not being okay…

As I say in the last poem of my more-than-personal collection, “I’m on the rollercoaster, of what we call life, and it might not be closure, but for the moment, I smile.”

The smile fell an obscene amount of times since I wrote that poem, but it seems to always find a way back to my heart,

So, I hope you can smile too, and find the last ray of light to hold on when everything seems lost.

Always here with compassion in my heart for whoever needs.

EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR: Gabriel Nathan | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

Poet and Novelist Gabrielle Guillon writes from the heart. She will do anything for a hot cup of tea, still celebrates her half-birthdays, and feels everyone has an inner tempestuous voice. Born in France and having lived in Switzerland, Gabrielle currently resides in Montreal with her husband, three teenagers, and an extremely moody cat. Her style is driven by raw emotion and describes the love, the loss, the grief, the light, and the darkness we've all been through. In her second collection of poems, she touches on the hard subject of depression with the vulnerability of someone who has been through hell and back.