Remembering my lithium body
his poem was drafted in the “Articulating the Body” workshop run by Quinn Eades at the 2017 South Australian Gender, Sex and Sexualities Conference. In response to the workshop trigger of the imund/immonde (abject and unworldly), the poem bears witness to re-membered experiences of being on (and getting off) the drug Lithium Carbonate. Following the poem, a research statement details how this re-membering of personal experience constitutes an act of “queer witnessing” (McCormack 2009) that recalls mainstream psychiatry’s historic and ongoing violences, including violences against LGBTQIA+ people (Veltman and Chaimonitz 2014).
Queer Witnessing; Recovery Movement; Imund / Immonde; Creative Writing Research; Antipsychiatry
Remembering a body with hands
that shook & arms
that shook & legs & toes & breath
always shaking, a body
with nerves all plugged up, muddied
in every synapse
and seeping, a body
with a cunt,
a salty, metal cunt
torn, a body, walking …barely…
& then the other
& the other
& the other
& the Other
Like a fucking bride, drowned
in white, washed clean,
of world & self—but still
a body dismembered:
but not gone,
a dormant body
that after two years woke
& from its mouth spewed No
& No & No & Oh & No…
& then other words,
for this body found
& recited its legal rights,
all that salt from its stream
& its feet & its hands,
legs, arms, breath,
its cunt. Yes—
this body pissed itself clean
& Now, this body,
it is fresh
water flowing. But still, this body,
it remembers, is remembered. It knows
there are yet Other bodies
being muddied, stuffed, salted
—bodies that must be
ERA RESEARCH STATEMENT
Drafted in the workshop “Art(i)culating the Body” (Eades 2017), this poem enacts écriture matiére (writing the bod(il)y) (Eades 2015, 30). Écriture matiére expands écriture feminine (writing the feminine) (Cixous 1976, 882) to include greater bodily diversity (Eades 2015, 30). The trigger for this poem was “imund”/”immonde ”—the unclean, abject and/or unworldly (Cixous & Sellers 1994, 238–40). I wrote about being on lithium carbonate in my late teens—a treatment my present doctor deems inappropriate, for I have since lived twelve years un-medicated, without remission. The poem re-members—restores membership to (Crowley 2001)—a body on lithium, and rejecting lithium.
Through écriture matiére (Eades 2015, 30), this poem contributes a “queer witnessing”—“embodied remembering” towards diversified possibilities for be(long)ing (McCormack 2009, 1)—and “queer writing”: radical “denaturalizing” of “categories or norms” (Baker & Thompson 2015, 9–10). The poem links norms of “sanity”/“insanity” with suppression of queer sexuality though “a salty, metal cunt / anaesthetised”. The poem also contributes to the “recovery movement” (Davidson 2016) by witnessing a body that “woke / & from its mouth spewed No”. Recovery foregrounds “lessons learned from the life experiences of these people [diagnosed with mental illnesses] as they found their way—often without assistance from, and in some cases despite, mental health services” (Davidson 2016, 1091).
The phrase “salty, metal cunt” remembers how my vaginal secretions tasted on lithium—of cold chemicals as opposed to human flesh. The poem thus describes abjection, yet “refigures the abject” as something “engaged with… even embraced” (Baker & Thompson 2015, 9–10) when the body “pisse[s] itself clean”. This paradoxical line evokes the “unclean with joy” (Cixous and Sellers 1994, 205) imund as reclaiming “the best part of ourselves” (239). The poem thereby witnesses a recovery of mind and/as body, and sexuality. Implicitly, it recalls mainstream psychiatry’s historic and ongoing violences against LGBTQIA+ people (Veltman and Chaimowitz 2014), signalling intersectional links between LGBTQIA+ advocacy and the recovery movement.
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Veltman, A. and Chaimowitz, G. (2014). Mental Health Care for People Who Identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and (or) Queer. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 59(11): 1–7.
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