By AJ Romano
Key Themes: poetry, bipolar disorder, anxiety, prose
The best way I can describe my book of poems and thoughts is as a poetic memoir. I have suffered from various mental illnesses throughout my life, including Bipolar Disorder, Panic Disorder, General Anxiety, and Clinical Depression. These intense thoughts fueled me to write poetry, which has always been my outlet.
The works enclosed in my book, The Defective Model, follow my life chronologically through my various stages of mental illness; including substance abuse, Bipolar symptoms, medication, side effects of medication, institutionalization, and panic attacks that ruled my life and kept me bed-ridden.
The conclusion of the book is my current feelings on the issues I am going through, my acceptance of them, the current treatment effective for me, and the lack of isolation I now feel.
That, in essence, is the purpose of this book in my eyes. Isolation from the outside world was very often my biggest misconception; the feeling that nobody else could possible be going through what I was. On paper, I see my faults and mistakes now; hopefully this book will help someone somewhere, because I poured my soul into The Defective Model with the same intentions as a helping hand.
Through deep and thoughtful poetry, and provocative prose, I have chronologically put my life into a binding; on to real paper pages. I hope these pages will mean as much to you as they do to me. I hope they will help you in the same way, as well.
About the Author
AJ Romano is an aspiring writer and poet from Central New Jersey, in the suburbs of New York City. AJ, twenty-two years old, hopes to continue to publish his creative works and eventually teach Creative Writing. His creative influences include that of Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Lord Byron. He enjoys reading and writing, classic rock, and spending time with his family; which include his Mother, Father, brother Mike, and “hetero-life-mate” Ryan. AJ has attended Ramapo College of New Jersey and hopes to continue his education to further his teaching and writing career. He is currently hard at work at his second work, a full-length prose novel.
Spring-cleaning for a writer such as myself, an emotional writer, really only has one comparison; a flower that continues to renew itself, year after year, until it becomes so regular its beauty is ignored. I have always written to cope; whether poetry, prose, journal entries, or lines on scrap pieces of paper. That being said, writing this book became more revision than writing in and of itself. The entries in this book are not “sugar-coated” or, for that matter, even written in the past tense; this is a real account of my life as it was happening. There are certainly “reflective” poems, but “reflection” is a relative term. Those poems were written not a year later, six-months later, or even really a month later. My personal thoughts on page, reflecting my personal life, have taken flight.
I have suffered for most of my life. I know more about night than dreary day because something (anxiety, depression, mania or what have you) has always been there to keep me staring at the ceiling, knowing that responsibility is a few hours away. The result is a hangover it takes days to sleep off.
I could give you a laundry-list of medications the professionals with good intentions, their good intentions, have given me, recommended to me, and gave me ultimatums to take. I am not deaf anymore to the countless others like me. I was a slave to pills; an addict without an addiction, an addict to cyclical self-medication, and finally an addict with an addiction. Being brutally honest, to me, as needed meant as needed.
In retrospect, my self-medication was probably problematic, and I am NOT talking about marijuana. I put pot in the same category as Valium; a short-term fast-acting band-aid. No, I am talking about my “cyclical addictions”. I was smart enough to never let one substance take control; my weeks’ calendar was filled with different remedies. Bottles of Nyquil, boxes of Benadryl, anti-anxiety, pain medication, muscle relaxers, sleeping pills, and alcohol got me by, barely alive, for years.
My addiction but not-addiction ranks first on the “Fuck AJ and His Life Up” list. The still-questionable bipolar diagnosis was certain at the time. The experiences that followed were trauma for the psyche. Situations can get worse much more quickly than you would imagine; a spiral straight down an old, abandoned well with slippery walls and only a small, pinprick of light in sight. Then night falls, and the light dwindles. Letting go of the light means turning the gun on your-self. It was close.
I suppose that is where the hospitalization comes in. I try not to look at my 36-hour experience in a psychiatric ward as a negative experience, but it is difficult. Taking pills, before an evaluation seems as futile as giving an AIDs patient antibiotics and telling them to sleep it off. After not eating because “there is none left”, I checked out Against Medical Advice, amid nasty stares from an extremely affronted resident. That situation, those thirty-six hours, is one of the few things I can credit for keeping me sane years later. It was course for comparison.
I fought for a few years simply on the principle that I would NEVER be institutionalized again.
Outpatient care with a psychiatrist who does not give a fuck is more management than treatment. Legal drugs made life worse than the self-medicating days. I lived the life of a zombie. I could not socialize; I could not function; I could not even watch a movie without falling into oblivious half-sleep, resulting in coma-like nothingness. The commute to work or school became a never-ending battle, a hazard for my life and the life of others that happened to cross my path. The pills stopped, against medical advice, the day my life almost did going seventy-five on the highway.
Now what? I lied. I went so far as to fill the prescriptions so they would show up the insurance bill. The days were better, and mood more manageable on massive amounts of marijuana and the occasional Valium for drastic measures. I could function, for the most part, for a while, anyway.
The extent of my advocacy and defensive of my marijuana use stops at the long-term. It may work for some, and I am not deaf to that. For me, however, it turned its back faster than a snobby bitch if you wore brown shoes with black pants. When the remedy became my enemy, I conceded to consult the professionals. I was, however, going to do it my way this time. I was taking control, with my back against a wall.