The idea for a poetry section on Heavy Metal Therapy started partly when Tim posted his excellent Monster poem on our social media following me sharing this image. I discovered from connecting with him that, as well as being a metalhead, he has also written loads of poems and blogs about his experiences of depression, and he has generously shared some of his great things with us here. But please check out his stuff at www.timbo-baggins.co.uk where you can find these bits and more! His twitter is @timbobagginsii so give him a follow as well
I was particularly interested in Tim’s monster poem, as it has a real voice dialogue feel about it, written from the perspective of the ‘monster in his head’:
Identity Theft (A Confession)
This isn’t really being written by Tim.
I know his log on details and passwords.
I know his bank details, where he works,
His car registration, birthday and mother’s maiden name.
I know an awful lot about him:
The places he goes, the people he sees.
Those he loves and hasn’t told.
Those he’d like to but won’t tell.
I know what he did last summer.
But this isn’t about Tim, it’s about me:
The monster that lives in his head.
On a good day,
I confusticate, vex and confuddle him,
I could also m*ddle him
But the rhymes are saved for the last verse.
On a good day,
I help him forget,
I help him wish upon vain fancies,
And idly while-away the hours he could better spend.
On a good day,
I paint it black
In wondrous shades that hide the light:
A stormcloud in front of stars.
On a good day,
I don’t have to do all that much
– The merest of whispers
There’s no room for a monster under his bed;
Tim’s personal monster lives in his head.
I am Tim’s monster and I want him dead.
But not yet(d).
I’m having far too much fun at the moment.
Tell your monster I said, “Hello.”
There is also a follow up to this one:
Hi, this is the Monster in Tim’s Head again. Thank you all so much for the well wishes following my sudden absence – it truly has made my heart grow fonder – I had been granted an extended holiday leave for all the good work I’d done. Management thought we could afford to leave the subject alone with his thoughts for a good long while.
It turns out that this wasn’t such a good idea, something for which I accept no responsibility whatsoever.
But I’m back. And, boy, do I have my work cut out for me!
Last night, after a very good day (for him), Tim went home feeling a trifle low – a perfectly natural condition after a long and fun day – and with just a few whispers I had him weakly contemplating suicide again, it was almost just like the good old days, as if I’d never left. It was wonderful watching him lying there, struggling, as if his ‘newly found freedom’ had been torn from him, and wondering if he ever would have a chance at being ‘normal’. It was after a couple of hours of this that I made my fatal mistake:
“You’ve always been this way, and you always will.” I whispered – a gem that had worked wonders in the past. Nobody told me that he’d woken up in my absence!
I heard him say, “Don’t be silly,” whether this was to himself or to me I’ll never know. “Don’t be daft, you’ve had a month and a half without any of this bullshit!” And just like that, I lost him.
I should never have accepted the generous holiday offer in its entirety, so much has unravelled and it’s going to be a while before things are back to normal. As ever, your kind thoughts are much appreciated.
Here are a few of Tim’s mental health related short stories:
A long-ish short story all about music and connecting with it
La Danse Macabre (pas)
There’s a ghost, you won’t have seen him, but he’s there. All the time, he dances; every where he goes – always dancing. Dancing as if he didn’t have a care in this world, or the next. Who knows? Maybe he doesn’t.
What I do know is that he never stops dancing. Sometimes he dances slowly. Sometimes he dances fast. Sometimes it’s the most most beautiful thing you ever saw (but you won’t), as if he were dancing what a thousand hearts breaking for the love of the same woman all at once would feel like – sad, and lonesome, and somehow right at the same time. Sometimes, it’s bad tap routines from hideous old black-and-white films, and you’d hope his ghostly tongue would be poked firmly into his ghostly cheek – it’s hard to tell. But he’s always dancing.
Some simple folks say that he’s got dancin’ feet, that it’s the night fever, the light of the silvery moon, that he always will be dancing and that he always has. But he might not, and he hasn’t.
Some slightly more together and knowledgeable types have been heard to say that it’s true – the rhythm DID get him (but that’s a joke that worked better when Chandler said it, and, besides, it’s not even the half of it).
The truth of the matter is, pure and simple, the music took him. It took him and it never let him go.
All of his life, he had loved music.
Back when he was learning to crawl, he would sit, transfixed in front of the radio his mother had playing in the background. As soon as the music started he would freeze where he was and stare at the source; when it stopped, he would turn away and his mind would move to other things; when it began again, he’d snap back like a whip and stare deep into the speaker.
Of course, his mother fed his fascination. It kept him out of the way, and seemed to be stimulating his little brain. She quickly learned that it didn’t matter what type of music was playing, as long as it played.
As he grew, he started trying to learn about music but had no aptitude for it whatsoever, which, rather than frustrating him, fascinated him all the more – how could something so foreign to his understanding affect him so deeply? All his spare time was spent reading about music; all his pocket money on tapes (and later, CDs and vinyl).
Briefly, he tried making friends with others who loved music, and hanging around with musicians, but this came to an end when he began feeling inferior – it was one thing not being able to make music or understand it himself, but quite another to listen to conversations about the thing he loved most and not be able to take part in any way. They aroused strange feelings of jealousy – these people who had a deeper relationship than he ever could with the music that he loved.
So, he found a job at a record store and retreated behind the music he bought with his meagre earnings. Any time they wouldn’t let him work – “You need some time off, we’ve got enough staff to cover the weekend, we’re closed on Sundays,” – he wandered around town listening to his music, getting more and more taken up in it as time went by.
He quit his job, resenting the interruptions that customers made on his listening schedule, moved back in with his mother who fed him and didn’t talk any more, and walked around the town, listening to one of his two i-pods, carrying the other in case the first ran out of power half way through the day.
Every day he would listen, and every day he would become a little more frustrated – he knew he loved the music, but he couldn’t understand any of it! He knew as much of the theory as anybody had any right to, and his head was full of crotchets and keys and scales, arpeggios, harmonies and dodgy middle eights, but he still didn’t get it. It was driving him mad and he knew it, but he didn’t know what he could do.
Some days he tried not listening at all but, after an hour or so, he couldn’t cope any longer and back on went the headphones. He tried talking to people (with music on in the back ground, of course) but after the first, ‘Hello’s he would drift away into the music and only notice that the other person had left when the disc needed changing. He couldn’t make any progress, nor could he get away from the need to try.
It was driving him mad.
One day, he was walking along the street, down by the old monument in town, when something distracted him. Some say it was a beautiful woman walking past and turning her head for a second glance. Some say it was the bleakness of the newspaper headline blowing around his feet. Some say it was the sheer joy and pleasure on the faces of two children chasing each other around and about. Some say it was the pain as he stubbed his toe on a wonky paving stone. Some say it was a minor stroke, causing his brain to stop just for one moment. Others say that it’s largely dependent on your definition of what music is.
It doesn’t matter. That moment’s distraction was all he needed. When his brain started again, everything fell into place. For the first time in his life he found himself dancing, not just caught up in his head but all of his being. And he couldn’t stop. Throughout that afternoon, crowds gathered, some cheered, some danced with him, all went away tired as he carried on dancing. He danced all night and in the morning the crowds returned. As the novelty wore off, their enthusiasm at first cooled and later turned to derision. At some point, amongst the cat-calls and over-ripe fruit, he was mugged and his i-pods with their precious music stolen, but the dance went on.
There’s not much more to tell: how, to get away from the crowds and the jeers, he danced his way to the quiet places; how, one day, some kids, out for kicks, murdered him, their blows and stabs falling as his dance became ever more fluid and graceful – as if, with the blood and consciousness leaving him, the music took an even greater hold; how his killers ran away screaming as he kept on dancing long after they had spent their energies; how, after that, it was only a matter of time running its course and, as the dance went on, his body drying out and shrinking until a skeleton in rags danced over the fields, scaring birds. Every so often, there would be a report of some drunken farmer being frightened half to death by a dancing scarecrow.
Then, nothing. No trace was found of any remains. The music took him, utterly and completely. He danced until there was nothing left but the ghost of a dance.
And the dance goes on.
And you find yourself dropped to your knees in the dust.
The dirt looks so inviting, roll around and get comfortable and sleep a while under the blanket of dirt.
Those alluring pools of poison the wise man warned you of, shimmer welcomingly. Sleep first, then crawl and roll to the nearest sinful oasis, drink deeply, and die in comfort.
And for the longest time you just kneel in the dust, unable to move, tears rolling down your face, screaming at the unfairness of it all.
Inviting, roll around, sleep, blanket.
Allure, wisdom, shimmer, drink deep, comfort.
And you find that the pain passes with time, that you can lift one foot into an upright position, no more than that, it’s all you can do to not fall over back into the dust.
And soon, you can crouch, balance on both feet, rock back and forth and all you can see around you:
And you rise to your feet, straighten up, brush yourself down and take your first tentative step toward freedom.
There is a man in the street, outside a party. The sounds of the party are spilling out into and washing over him: laughter, glasses clinking, music, conversation – the general sounds of revelry. The only light in the street comes from the party and the man is lit dimly as most of the light is blocked by people inside, enjoying themselves and casting shadows onto the street. In the dim light, the man casts a dimmer shadow as he kneels at the foot of a broken lamp post, screaming.
He has been screaming for a long time and is utterly alone – just the man and his scream. He cannot remember a time when he hasn’t been screaming. Sometimes he curls up in a ball and sleeps and, for a while, there is blessed silence, but he is unaware of this – he is screaming as he falls asleep and the sound of his screams wakes him up.
The party has been going on a long time and he would love to go inside. But he can’t stop screaming and he knows this would disturb the others and he doesn’t know how to stop.
One day, he feels something different. He feels an arm across his shoulders and the warmth of somebody kneeling next to him. He has no more idea of how long this stranger has been holding him than he has of how long he has been screaming. As the stranger holds him, the man notices that his screaming is becoming less intense and is giving way to sobs and tears and sniffles.
The stranger carries on holding him.
Eventually, the man is silent. He has no more tears, no more pain, no more screaming. “Come inside.” says the stranger. The man is reluctant – his clothes are dirty, his trousers torn at the knees from years of kneeling, he can’t face the people inside, his voice is hoarse, it’s all too much for him – too soon. “Don’t worry,” says the stranger, “come in the kitchen and we’ll have a cup of tea.”
Together, they stand up. And, holding each other, they shakily walk inside.
Fair Flowers of Paradise Extend
The Suicide arrived at the gates of heaven with the rope still around his neck. It seemed like he had been travelling for a long time and he was very tired. Wearily, he knocked and was mildly surprised to find that the door in the gate swung open to reveal a friendly-looking man wearing a Friar’s brown robes.
The Saint welcomed him in and showed him to the comfortable quarters that had been prepared for his arrival.
The noose remained around the Suicide’s neck – hanging down, with five neat loops creating a perfect hangman’s knot, and a further six feet of rope dangling to the floor and trailing behind him, tripping him up from time to time and occasionally tangling round his legs quite completely. One day, the Saint asked him, “Why do you still wear that thing?” “I’ve tried to take it off but it doesn’t want to go.” The Saint left it at that and afterlife went on.
One day, the Suicide approached the Saint, tapped him on the shoulder and gestured to the rope. “This was the only decision I ever truly made for myself.” He turned away sadly and went on his way, barely noticing as one of the loops of the hangman’s knot loosened.
Another day, “I must have hurt so many people.” The second loop of the knot loosened.
As huddled as two people can be round a fire in a courtyard, “I need it to remind me.” The Saint gently replied, “You’ll always have your scars.” The Suicide felt around his neck and touched his arms – how had he never noticed the welts and tears left by the trauma before? How had he failed to see the marks of a lifetime of pain? Something shifted inside him and the third loop loosened whilst the remaining two stayed true and tight.
Days or months later, “This is all that I have.”
“Do you really want to carry this ugly thing with you for all eternity? Look at how it’s getting in the way of doing the things you enjoy.” The Suicide sat and thought and realised the truth of it – if only he could be rid of this troublesome rope! The penultimate loop came away.
Not long after that, “This is who I am.” The Saint leaned over and whispered in his ear. Sitting back up, he said, “That is your true name, who you are, what you have done, the lives you have touched. That is who you are. It was first given to you at your birth and is given again to you in your death. You will not forget it again.” And the man realised this was true. The final turn of the knot loosened itself and, as he stood up, it slid from his shoulders. The Saint took a step forward and it looked like he trod on the end of the rope as it slithered down – but he was just picking it up and tidying it away.
His scars glowing with a strange and beautiful light, and grasping his new and old true name deep inside, the former suicide walked through another door and further into paradise.
Tim also uses his blog to talk about his experiences of depression and recovery, such as this little gem:
The mental health feelings/function compass:
This may need a little explanation – I’d been receiving treatment for years and had been making massive progress but still woke up every morning feeling like death. I started to question whether any of the struggle had been worth it and was in danger of slipping into a negative feedback loop. Then, I realised that I was actually in a better-able-to-do-function state than I had been for years and that Depression wasn’t so much a spectrum as a compass with desired good health being somewhere in the top right – to move from the far end of the bottom left quadrant to half way through the bottom right quadrant was progress indeed. Having realised this I started to feel better too. I’ve since spoken with lots of people who’ve not seen anything quite like it before and really could do with putting the word about more.
More blogs from Tim on depression