I am at home the first time my mind lets itself outside my body

without asking and no matter how frantic my hands get they

cannot stop my brain from breaking the lock. My mom has been

on a low dose of Celexa for five years—“just to keep things under

control”—and she holds my hands first, then my shoulders, tells me


this is just an adaptive mechanism until I can repeat it back, how if

you were being torn apart by lions you would want to live in a dream

tooi but caught in this liminal space beyond myself I choke on the fact that

her words take more of a shape in the world than I do how they have strung

together from nothing how they come together to encircle me how we are


all just circling the drain from the background comes the murmur hum the

monosyllabic yoke yet nothing has ever been louder than the feeling

of being fundamentally wrong in my own body the way it screams

like iron on a grindstone means it probably bleeds that way too BETTER

LUCK NEXT TIME LOVE, GOD. It takes an hour to stop shaking


a day to be able to carry a mug without breaking it as if it was not

entirely mine to hold at least a week to Google how to install a

deadbolt. Did you mean: recovering from depersonalization? De-

personalization—even the name finds a way to bend the rules of the

body in a “Dostoevsky-style illumination, where clarity cannot be


distinguished from pain” and escape and forced separation have all

at once become intimately entangled as the word splits my lips apart

in unfamiliar and ugly ways.ii Why have we been forced to accept

unreality as a condition of being? Since when have we needed to live

half outside the world to survive it? The terms of our human contract


must have been written in shadow and submerged in murky water

where like bones they bleached and tattered until we somehow

gathered the courage to do more than just call the obscure god

and move on. Finally we are old enough to look away from the creator

cutting threads in his one-way mirror yet descending unmoored into the


darkness leaves us with so much still to learn about gracefully facing a life

with no ascribed meaning like how often we fail to create ourselves before

fading into nothing and how difficult it is to survive knowing we may

break before the end. It is the body that becomes battleground for these

“as-if’s” and while fighting it, Amiel spoke of distance—madness—blindness—


—a harsh enough departure from the world to turn the self to flotsam, bits of

boats unharbored “cut adrift” by the disorder.iii With no guiding hand he could not

know who chooses or who chooses this who grabs from the inside mangles

us tangles us twists who pulls apart? In 1888 Van Gogh cut off his ear in what

critics have referred to as a fit of “aural hallucination”iv and thus another one of


of us was cut adrift. Red was not a color he normally worked with so we

can imagine the tear he must have felt while halfheartedly staunching the

river am I artist or human as he cradles the razor or neither there is

so much sadness in knowing someone’s future tense how a piece of ringed

skin remains the great question of his life even now how even a starry night


can be eclipsed by such an abrupt turn away from being. We know now

that in the waking hours of his unbeing he wandered aimless into

a maison de tolérance and handed his ear to a woman named Rachel

with a plea to “keep this object like a treasure” the soul outside the

body crying please be my keeper.v How quickly he forgot what to do


with smudges and colors to make irises bloom on paper and was instead

struck by how they have so often been planted over the graves of women to

summon them to heavenvi how he so unknowingly turned the purple red when

we do not recognize what we bleed we look to others to keep safe the

only pieces of ourselves we have left hands first then shoulders sometimes even


an ear. We know now that for every one of Van Gogh’s manic yellows

red must surface too and often with no warning sunflowers will stop becoming

sunflowers and start corroding we are always aware of the underbelly of “better”

which is knowing what it is to be worse to watch parts of yourself

split from their hinges cut loose from one another haunted by the word


devii off, or from (another) personalviii in Latin “personare” to push sound

through a mask, amplifying one’s voice (the air shrieks between

the self and its shell) izationix I am the farthest thing from

united the latter half of an action suspended forever in halted

progress (I will always seek a beginning) yet when the word comes


together it leaves me here and nowhere a body (mind) breaking (trying to

cobble its pieces back together) too far gone (there will always be

something missing) we are all screeching (screaming) it begins

again the separation hairline fractures cracking the glass (in a room of

quiet students) I scribble in looseleaf the pages are shedding


everywhere there is no treatment except for talk therapy I AM


screeches on the blackboard the mind begins its own self-

portrait “—the internet” and how easy it is to lose all semantic

content the mirror shatters threads snap the body is so small


too small this is what happens when you have no

keeper THINGS FALL APART another one of

us is crushed under the river THE CENTRE

CANNOT HOLD the body buckles under all it

cannot carry MERE








i “DPD can also exist in isolation, and the general understanding is that the brain has triggered a natural defence mechanism against extreme anxiety; having reached an arbitrarily defined limit, it has entered a complete emotional shutdown, taking with it sensations of pleasure as well as pain; love as well as hate.” https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/sep/04/depersonalisation-disorder-the-condition-youve-never-heard-of-that-affects-millions

ii Dr. Elena Bezzubova is a Russian psychoanalyst who treats people with depersonalization in California—the Dostoevsky quote is hers. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/12/enlightenments-evil-twin/383726/

iii Henri Frédéric Amiel was a 19th century Swiss philosopher and writer whose posthumously-published journal is thought to include the first reference to depersonalization, as he mentions: “All is strange to me; I am, as it were, outside my own body and individuality; I am depersonalized, detached, cut adrift. Is this madness?” https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/12/enlightenments-evil-twin/383726/

iv “Aural hallucination” was one of Van Gogh’s posthumous diagnoses—among others include depression, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, alcoholism, absinthe poisoning, and sunstroke. It is said that cutting off his ear “might have been a vain attempt to silence those noises”. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/van-gogh-ear-slash-motive-trnd/index.html

v A “maison de tolérance” is a brothel; Van Gogh “put on his beret” and dragged himself there to give the severed ear to a woman and then promptly fled. He was found the next morning feverish and immediately brought to a hospital, yet his mutilated ear was a constant reminder of what he had done. https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/06/05/van-gogh-and-mental-illness/

vi “The iris’s mythology dates back to ancient Greece, when the goddess Iris, who personified the rainbow (the Greek word for iris), acted as the link between heaven and earth. It’s said that purple irises were planted over the graves of women to summon the goddess Iris to guide them in their journey to heaven.” https://www.teleflora.com/meaning-of-flowers/iris

vii Etymology of “de”: Latin adverb and preposition of separation in space, meaning “down from, off, away from,” https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=de

viii Etymology of “person”: OED offers the general 19c. explanation of persona as “related to” Latin personare “to sound through” (i.e. the mask as something spoken through and perhaps amplifying the voice). https://www.etymonline.com/word/person

ix Etymology of “ization”: word-forming element making nouns of action, process, or state. https://www.etymonline.com/word/-ization

x Yeats, W.B. The Second Coming, www.potw.org/archive/potw351.html.