I began writing poetry when I was hospitalized in an inpatient psychiatry ward at the Palo Alto VA Hospital. It actually started as a form of journaling the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing upon entering treatment. As I transitioned into the PTSD inpatient treatment program, I began working more on my craft in order to truly convey my thoughts and emotions on paper. I found that writing my thoughts down was easier than finding words to speak in the moment:
Morbid, desolate, grim, and bleak.
Feeling so depleted, fatigued, and weak.
Can’t find the proper words to speak.
So on this paper my pen will leak.
Writing has also complemented my PTSD treatment by allowing me to reflect on and process events as they occurred in treatment. For example, I wrote the following poem after receiving some tough feedback from peers:
I’ve lost all of my comrades and allies.
So I’m planning my final demise.
This should come as no surprise.
I’ve crumbled right before your eyes.
This is not the time to chastise.
Just come to say your final goodbyes.
I like to compare the writing process to the process that an artist may experience when beginning a painting. In art, the artist typically has a theme or concept that he/she wants to transfer onto a blank canvas. However, if during the process that concept changes, the artist is still able to express him/herself without the confines of following rules. This is what I particularly enjoy about writing poetry; I am able to express myself freely and am still create something that may possibly resonate with others.
Besides the tools that I learned while in the PTSD program (5 column, distress tolerance and mindfulness), writing has been one of the most integral tools in my treatment in regards to helping me examine my thoughts. I think that the VA should invest more money into creative arts programs for Veterans who are in treatment because art is a great avenue to channel emotions and thoughts.
Editor’s note: Each year, VA and the American Legion Auxiliary host the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). The festival serves as not only a celebration of Veteran artists, but the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama and music for Veterans treated in the VA’s national health care system. Find our more about the festival at http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/caf/index.asp