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Grocery Store

Poem

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OBJECTIVE
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This booklet is one of the many parts of the anti-stigma project, - Redefining Schizophrenia.

“Redefining Schizophrenia” (in collaboration with NIMHANS, Bangalore) aims to birth empathy and spread awareness with people about Schizophrenia. This mental illness is not known by many and yet one tends to stigmatize it easily without understanding what the illness is and the consequences their actions hold against someone who has it. Hence, each part will tackle one of the many issues to bring about better understanding about the illness and a better perspective from a person who suffers from the illness.

DESCRIPTION

Schizophrenia is a mental illness that can affect one in the most mundane moments of life as well. This illness is usually accompanied by visual/auditory/sensory hallucinations. It’s hard for other people to understand the weight of the illness and they can perceive it better if it is viewed through the eyes of someone who suffers from it. Hence, it was decided to approach a person who has Schizophrenia and he was kind enough to talk about his experiences and even share one of his written pieces. This poem focuses on a mundane moment when the poet visits the grocery store along with his brother and the psychosis he experiences at the time. The “Grocery store” is a short poem that beautifully captures the intense emotions this person goes through at the moment of psychosis. The feelings of helplessness and horror are encapsulated within the words. The poem is supported by haunting black and white visuals that bring about the pure essence of Schizophrenia.

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The Writer

A wonderful man by the name of Joseph Austin from Southern California whom I met online, took his time to help me understand the illness and all the consequences one can face because of the kind of stigma that exists. The 31-year-old also happens to be a writer and hence I decided to ask him for his written piece. He apparently had this poem for a long time explaining the horrors of psychosis. With his permission, I had the opportunity to illustrate his poem.

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The Poem

They find me hiding in the corner

A grown man trying to disappear

among the produce like

a harmless, oversized carrot

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"Are you okay?" my brother asks after waiting

to see me if I would notice him in front of me

I didn't, and I wasn't.

"Yeah" I say with a laugh.

"I'm fine. Just got lost in thought."

I didn't, and I wasn't.

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I let him lead me through the store

I do my best to ignore the faces,

but they follow me everywhere

Friends from years and hundreds of miles ago

Countless in number, few in shape and form

Watching and daring me to notice

Goading me to say something and play my hand

I didn't, and I won't.

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Eyes stay down and ignore the same

Five faces that have replaced unwary shoppers

Repeating themselves in my waking nightmare

Whispering snippets of conversations

stitched together from a hundred shattered memories

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The sound of them begins to howl

A twister in the middle of the grocery store

Louder and angrier and all consuming

Shrieking at me for not listening

For not playing along

For not acknowledging them

I didn't, and I won't.

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The minutes tick by in hours

As my brother patiently finds

each item on the list

Aisle by aisle

I throw the things he points out

In the cart without a thought

A zombie haunted by ghosts.

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"Are you sure you're okay?"

I hear my brother ask.

Ten seconds later he says it

I smile

"It's nothing new. I'll survive."

I have, and I will.

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