Monday, April 25, 2016

On Writing #92 : Ashley-Elisabeth Best



The Hard Remainder
Ashley-Elizabeth Best

            I'm reading through a poetry book, making notes, notes that will eventually turn into a poem. As I write this I am overwhelmed with anxiety. Recently I have been having difficulty writing, trouble putting words together in the right order, of making the meaning I want to make. Writer's block? Maybe. More likely, as in the past, it's the new medication my psychiatrist has me on. For the past four years, every six months or so, I try a new regime of medications in the hopes that it will be more effective in helping me to live with Type II Bipolar. With every new regiment of medication I have to relearn how to write. At least that's how it feels. Last September I was on a medication that made me forget how to spell most words, how to speak fluently and most disconcertingly whole words altogether. It took me a month to figure out it was the medication hindering my words.

            There was another medication two years ago that made me gain twenty pounds and sleep constantly. When I was trying not to sleep, I was writing. There were times I stopped taking the pills to be able to write. Those were desperate decisions made badly. My writing life is not my own in many ways. It's governed by emotions I don't know I'm having until someone else tells me, by medication meant to chemically help me process said emotions and the faulty wiring in my brain.

            I won't complain too much. I can usually figure it out after hours, days, and sometimes months at my desk. I have to trust it will come back. Writing soothes a part of me I don't have access to. I grew up in a house with few books and many siblings. I remember loving to read as a kid and wanting to write a book into existence. There was never time for writing then, not until I moved out. Helping my mother raise four kids left no room for anything other than immediate problems. Those years are lost to me.

            Sometimes I try to quit, to stop analyzing myself.

            I ride the bus a lot, across the country westward as far as Edmonton and once as far south as New Orleans. I get some of my best ideas on Greyhound Buses. I'm able to get at a more honest conversation with myself, something unlocked from the cage of my body. I can practice being unknown, being a better me, a healthier me. Somewhere in Kentucky on that bus to New Orleans I decided to stop trying to understand the mess of myself. Instead I pulled out my notebook and wrote what I could by hand, toward my destination, towards my own well-being.

            It's embarrassing to discuss with other writers. Often I say I can't write but not why, which leads to all sorts of condescending advice. Well intentioned but not very helpful.

            Now I've opted for a simpler, quieter life. I'm able to read without children screaming around me, I can set something down and know it will be there when I return. I like being accountable only to myself. Sometimes time opens its expansive mouth and swallows me whole.

            I have absolutely no advice for anyone else. Well, maybe one thing— read! I'm too busy pushing my own thoughts through the medicinal fog, gathering whatever I stumble upon, scratching it down before depression or medication reclaim it.


Ashley-Elizabeth Best is from Cobourg, ON. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in CV2, Berfrois, Grist, dusie, Ambit Magazine, Glasgow Review of Books, Lumina, and The Literary Review of Canada, as well as a chapbook through above/ground press. Her debut poetry collection was shortlisted for the 2015 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry and appears with ECW Press in 2016. She lives and writes in Kingston.

1 comment:

Mary Elizabeth Lauzon said...

Beautifully written. Thank you for helping me understand myself better!