Amy Barlow Liberatore… stories of lost years, wild times, mental variety, faith, and lots of jazz

Tag Archives: Mental Health


Going on ten p.m.
Ready to relax… reflect… boot down
Don’t forget tomorrow’s appointment,
which means:

Get up early (but I won’t sleep)
Take a shower (so I don’t reek)

But first, tonight, I must
clean up kitchen mess from dinner:
Meats, sweets, culinary treats
Counter’s a bloodbath of
beet juice, nibs, rice shards

Now to bed – first, cat fed
Now to bed – wait, take med
Now to bed – oops, brush teeth
Now to bed – shit, no sheets!
Now to bed – yoga first
(muscles stretch and tension burst)
NOW to bed – meditation
Plug in phone, pull up station

Guarantees a good night’s sleep
(takes two hours and three repeats)

Soothing voices, never boring
Long night’s journey into snoring

© 2016 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday, K is for kerfuffle.

We (I and my bipolar) are currently in manic phase. I downloaded the free “Insight Timer” phone app, and they have everything from soothing music to calm voices talking me through various relaxations. Anyone with insomnia, GET THIS APP!

Unfortunately, when the manic is in sway, I can get through the whole thing with my body buzzingly relaxed and happy, but my mind is still running circles and twisting about. So yeah… my therapist says I may have ADD, but frankly, the bipolar, PTSD, and OCD are quite enough, thank you.  Amy


They say I have brain imbalance
I say I have special talents

When attention starts to wander,
what I see, I never squander

Though it seems I’ve gone away
when my glassy eyes hold sway,

I’m right here! Yet, for a minute,
seems like hours I’ve spent within it

Parallel to conscious thought,
there lies treasure – can’t be bought

Worlds of wonder close at hand
when I stray to Neverland

They call it ‘dissociation’
I call it a free vacation

© 2016 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Tuesday Platform.

My therapist noticed – Lex, too – that I sometimes drift off. I call it, “over there,” just to the right of my conscious being. This was a hallmark of my school years, and it’s probably why I graduated by the skin of my teeth. Now I can enjoy it, because I know what it is and no longer fear it. Don’t worry – I never do it while driving!  Peace, Amy

determined swimmer 001

Acrylic on canvas, 9×12 by Amy Barlow (Liberatore)

Determined Swimmer

She’s good in water
A determined swimmer
An athlete going for the gold
With each stroke, determination grows
Hope flows with coursing blood

(a flash of daddy’s face)

Swimming for her life
or because of it
Because water will wash away
traces of THAT
Wash her clean of past, passed

(what happened, over and over again)

Almost there
Air collapsing from her lungs outward
The sea, an effervescent bubble mass
of inside, now outside

(he’s dead yet alive, too alive and too strong)

The picture fades from view
Her eyes shine in a wide-awake stare
A limp doll sleeping
on solid ground
at last

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

The painting says it all, if you understand her determination. I have felt like this, too many times. May all who have been abused find peace… peace that does not need this kind of plunge. Amy

Carpe See ‘em

Homeless souls – some call them “bums on the street”
Folded small into their desperate beat

Solo bench or so-low depressed bunch
Waiting for a handout or maybe a lunch

One lady says, “Why bring him into this place?
I don’t mind bums but, right here in my face?”

She’s talking about Ed, who’s depressed, just like me
We’re cousins in ways other people can’t see

Tells me over bagels, he’s long out of work
Routed from working by some kinda jerk

who left a buzzsaw blade-out where he shouldn’t
Blindsided my new friend Ed, who couldn’t

avoid it, no matter how cautious… so now
Ed lives on a deadwood bench – but somehow

he knows “sometimes better’s bound to come”
His faith is real strong… so now who’s the “bum”?

Aforementioned lady attends church every week
I say, “You know, you just called Jesus a freak”

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image obtained through Creative Commons thanks to psyberartist – see licensing HERE.

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Grapeling challenged us to “carpe diem” and remember Robin Williams and his struggles with depression by choosing some words from a list and writing on the subject in whatever way we chose. Since I live on Bipolar Boulevard, all I had to do was walk outside, take this guy to lunch, and we ended up having a great conversation. He turned me on to a bagel place I’d never heard of; we had strong, fair-trade coffee; and over the speakers, I was gifted with a song I will use in ministry tomorrow… but that’s a story for another day.

Robin Williams used to make my hands shake a bit, remembering the cocaine days as he’d imp and jester his way through routines at spitfire pace. But I also recognized what lurked under the surface, as with Jonathan Winters (who was given a gig on “Mork and Mindy” at Williams’ insistence), Lou Costello of Abbot and Costello (whose depression was compounded when his two-year-old son drowned in his family’s new swimming pool, there’s Hollywood irony for you), and so many more. Lots of comedians learn their craft as children, trying to cheer up a family member or escape bullying or simply stand out. Jim Carrey comes to mind.

The woman in this poem actually ‘called me out’ while Ed took a bathroom break. It’s like people don’t want to see the homeless, but they don’t mind bitching about them when they are not in the room.  She’s the kind of “Christian” who gives the rest of us a bad name.

May Robin’s family find peace.  Thanks for the laughs, Robin. I’m sorry you couldn’t see a tomorrow in sight.  Peace, Amy

NOTE about “ROLLIE” trilogy: It will be completed tomorrow. Couldn’t resist this prompt.

Hysterical Women Running Amok

Hysteria was once thought
uniquely confined
to the female side
of all mankind

Said to be caused
by a “wandering uterus”
That’s why TPs think
our birth control’s ludicrous

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image: Free license, free use via

This was for Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, courtesy of Isadora. She sent us to the Random Fact Generator, where the perfect prompt was given to me (I confess) on my third click… “TPs” are, of course, Tea Partiers!

I researched “amok” vs. “amuck,” (my original choice) and found that, in modern parlance, “amok” wins. Harrrumph. Peace, Amy


Once more from the breach-
birth out of the depths
Held my breath for hours
for days, weeks

Leaking only a bubble-
burst of word/words
Confined to my throne
on the ocean floor

Or was it a cocoon?
Yes, perhaps, and I
trapped after worms
encased me as I slept

Awaking blind, absorbed
only in the way through
Squirmsliding out of
the fetid chrysalis


© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For dverse Open Mic and Imaginary Garden with Real Toads’ Open Link Monday. This explains my long absences, and I’m sorry to all who expect more from me. Cannot fight the anti-muse, even in sunny summertime. Peace, Amy

Ginger and the Need

She shambles by in vin-
tage thrift store pin-
stripe threadbare and win-
some smile, rootless, adrift

She spots me, grin-
ning at me with an in-
the-know winkish bin-
there-dived that, too. We kin-

dle fragile friendship, cin-
namon stick in cocoa, fin-
ishing each other’s thought, in-
tuitive, this girl, and worth more.

I have meds, in-
temse therapy; she sin-
cerely deserves same. I win-
ce at her need because din-

ner, doctor, care are in-
trinsic parts of my day. Fin-
ish this sentence: “Homeless Gin-
ger deserves less because ______.”

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

We know that many homeless Americans are in dire need of solid therapy and usually some psychiatric care as well. This girl is detached in an odd way – she smells, but not for lack of a bathtub; she’s comfortable in her own aroma soup. She’s off the wall, but no more than I used to be before I got help. She’s homeless and does the dumpster dive; we have that in common from my Bad Old Days.  She is a fascinating human being who deserves better.  The missing piece of this puzzle? Health care for all Americans.

Hats off to De Jackson, AKA Whimsy Gizmo, for the hyphenated fractious quality. De’s freedom with punctuation and wordplay astonishes me, and I know she will not mind my “borrowing” a device from her toolbox. Check her out – click on her name.

Written for the puzzle prompt at dverse, and thank goodness Mr. Linky is still open! Also in the margins at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and in the Poetry Pantry at Poets United.

Please join with me in engaging the homeless when you have a spare hour. You’ll know whether or not there is a threatening vibe, trust me. There is no sin in stopping the relationship at taking them to lunch and simply listening for an hour… sometimes, that hour is their diamond in an otherwise suck week, and you will be doing a mitzvah.

Peace, Amy



Chance of teardrops
Possibility of thunder
Hurricanes in season these days
Mood swings


No magician
Healed the sick; fed the poor
If we follow in his footsteps
Peace reigns

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Tony at dverse presented the weekly “form for all.” I had written some a long while back for Real Toads, but Tony’s explanation of the guidelines – to write with intention; to place meaningful words at the end of a line, rather than a transitional word or hyphenation that makes the 2-4-6-8-2 syllable scheme add up mathematically… these helped me develop a new appreciation of the Cinquain. I hope my poems reflect his guidance!

These will also pop up in the scrolling poetry jam at Poets United, where I always try to be in my best “form.”

Also, today (March 14) would have been the 90th birthday of my mother, Charlotte.  I miss her so.

Peace, Amy

Once again I find I’m lapsing
My brain is not synapsing
quite properly, and still
(as life requires we will),
I must do family taxes.
No time for “poem-relaxes,”
nor room for fun with Wordles
My cocoa sits and curdles
as I, ‘sharp little’ in hand
do battle with The Man.

But… one real poem for the road, what say? I’ll be back soon!  This will be at Poets United, where the math is easy… but the social studies can be a bit challenging!


The utile compass pinpoints
and twirls
Traces my brain
seeking sense in vain

Its sharp center
pierces a fold and
the golf pencil
in search of principles
and edicts, only to find

bloody rivers of
flowing memory
Streams of unconscious longing
Thwacking rhythms of
a gutbucket blues

Tintype verses
Blowfly curses
Meandering forgetfulness and

a singular kaleidoscope
filled with broken shards
of a life
and a city and
things that happened

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Psychiatry, according to my former practitioner, is in fact experimentation. “Anyone who tells you otherwise is full of shit,” he said, explaining that the details lie in the psychiatrist’s ability to listen, to ask questions about how the counseling is going, and to be sensitive to the patient’s vibe. I imagined what it would be like to look at my brain from a clinical, almost forensic, standpoint… except the practitioner is Tim Burton. Peace, Amy



Two in one
Joined at the skin
Yin/Yang twins with
opposing forces:

One, golden innocence
the endless blossoming
of girl to young lady to
woman to mom to

The other, haunted by
events time will not erase,
rusted razors

The miracle is
they both survive
the chaos

One diary; two lives
The perfectionist clips
fraying edges of her life;
her trademark, a lack
of deceit.

The dangerous silverfish
dives endlessly into
threadbare carpet on
the walls, only to emerge
unspooling, unruly,
unnervingly unorthodox

One seeks applause
The other, a pause,
if only to seek a blank sheet,
a mulligan, a cosmic do-over
(and over, and over)

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, “Get listed.” Huge list of words, and I managed to use quite a few. Thanks, Fireblossom! Also at my poetic hangout, Poets United. I was too late for dverse Open Mic Night. Drat! Finally, for Trifecta, “survive.”

RE: Life… Finally back among the functional, for the most part. The two in one of this piece are, of course, Amy Before She Knew and Amy After Diagnosis and Realization that her youth was stolen. Both are good people with frenetic days, bad tempers, and other challenges. Many thanks to all who have been sending good wishes during my hiatus. Happy New Year and Peace, Amy