To My Friend With Schizophrenia

Mental Health
Jorge Flores

When we meet again you bite your lip,
Hesitate to greet me,
Then flick your eyes to mine
As you say my name.
You hold each word in your mouth
Before you speak it.
I receive each syllable as a pearl,
Since I know organizing words is hard for you.

You answer most questions in the same flat staccato note.
I look for emotion in the spaces between your words
Since you don’t show it,
Except in the occasional smile.

You speak hesitantly of past traumas.
I admire your bravery.
Your intense emotional strength
Brought you to testify in a courtroom
And fiercely choose your own path.

I wonder about the words you never offer,
Those dark days before you knew medication
Or had a name for the emotional pain you felt.
What did you call it before schizophrenia?
How did you handle the voices
Before the medication swept them away?

You have survived pain and trauma
And the daily struggle of schizophrenia,
That jumbles your thoughts and speech
And strains every movement.
Still, you keep walking,
Keep speaking,
Keep finding reasons to smile.

You are truly a warrior,
And I am glad to call you friend.
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Lynne Shayko is a master’s student in clinical mental health counseling at Kent State University.

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