OCD Prose

Breathe by Marilyn June Janson

Eight AM. Tuesday September 15, 2020. The Center for Disease Control reports a total of 6,537,627 United States cases and 194,092 deaths.

Phoenix, Arizona. Parked at an outdoor mall, I get out of my car, grab a mask from the backseat, and stuff it in my handbag.

A few cars dot the parking lot. I scan the sidewalks for people. None.

No need to put on the mask.

Standing beside concrete fountain, I take 10 second videos of flowers smoldering in the breeze.

I see him in my lens. He is not wearing a mask.

My hands shake and heart thumps.

Deep, slow, breaths. Exhale. A,b,c,d…

Saying the alphabet is my coping strategy.

I toss the cell phone in my bag, grab my mask, and put it on.  

Does he have COVID? Is he a carrier?

A sneeze in my direction could spread millions of his microorganisms and infect me.


Instead, I turn and walk to my car.

Diagnosed as an adult with Obsessive Compulsive and Anxiety Disorders I learned to manage my symptoms.

I pay attention to the signs: sweating, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat. I have retrained myself to breathe.

Relentless worries about health, illness, and dying are my triggers.

Taking prescribed anti-anxiety medication helps to quell these symptoms.

September 5, 2020, Action 6 News Philadelphia reports, “US Surgeon General Dr. Adams advises the states to be ready on November 1, 2020 to distribute a COVID vaccine, just in case.”

Pressure from the White House to vaccinate America before the November 3rd elections terrorizes me. It takes years of patient trials for a vaccine to be safe for the public.

Nightmares of government mandated injections plague my dreams.

My peer led mental health support groups stopped meeting in-person months ago.

I have tried Zoom meetings and stopped. I miss the face–to-face contact.

Masks are mandated in town. My friends are going out to restaurants.

Lonely and sad, I want to go out, too.

Sunday September 6, 2020. I leave home At 7 AM for Wal–Mart. There will not be too many people there.

Deep, slow, breaths. Exhale. A,b,c,d,e…

Masks required, I put on two pairs of gloves, and a mask.

Inside I spend time avoiding others and locating items.

I turn away to avoid facing anyone nearby.

Hearing someone sneeze behind me, I cringe.

The store is out of the cleaning products I want. I grab some hand sanitizers and two boxes of gloves.

I pay with a credit card at a kiosk. No need to use a possibly infected stylus to sign my name.

Grabbing my bag, I leave the store, exhausted.

I stop by a park to destress. I get out to stretch my clenched neck, spine, legs, and arms.

Watching a few horseback riders circle the area and boys playing with a Frisbee, this day seems normal.

It is not. COVID has not, “Gone away like a miracle,” as President Trump said.

I get into my car, go home, and take a nap.


Marilyn June Janson was diagnosed with OCD and Anxiety Disorders at age 21. She manages her symptoms and triggers with prescribed and monitored anti-anxiety and depression medication. Ms. Janson is a small business owner and instructor living in Arizona with her husband Ed and Bella Rose, a cat.

Book Reviews

Break Review


By Adam Levon Brown

Published by Poetic Justice Books 2019

64 pages

$12 paperback

ISBN: 978-1-950433-03-2

Book reviewed by Kavita Khajuria.

“My fingers dance across delusional

ballrooms, skipping

rope with my synapses”

This book is a powerful narrative  – it lifts the tip of the iceberg to expose the cataclysmic realities of mental illness. Themes include trauma and abuse, isolation and suicide, and hopelessness and gratitude – with tones of despair, desolation and resignation. 

Emotional scars are communicated in visceral depth. Most striking are the psychotic and depressive experiences, which translate as highly educational and an invocation to empathy. Readers can observe the resonating psychic pain as well as moments of gratitude and glimmers of hope. The triple entendre with parental mental illnesses compound the weight, yet it’s clear in this case that certain bonds can never die in spite of mental illness. It’s a moving experience, and a validation of the human spirit.

Poetry Self-Harm

The Blade by Jerica Taylor

I carry a sword inside me, head to hips.

Some evenings, I want to dance until it clangs against my ribs loud enough to be heard.

Outside in the sun in the lingering chill of February, light glints off my chest, blinding. Steel shines just under the skin of my sternum. Is the blade finally going to rend me in half? Or is my body exorcising it like a splinter?

I press my hand to this new breastplate. I do not want to die in the daylight, but I fear turning inward to discover I have been hollowed, and am still walking.

In an unseen future, something could grow in that cleaned-out space; a pruned-back bush dormant for a season, a year, a decade. Any blossom would be an epiphany.

A stem in my hand.

Jerica Taylor is a neurodivergent queer cook, birder, and chicken herder. She has an MFA from Emerson College, and her work has appeared in Impossible Archetype, FERAL, perhappened, and The Fabulist. She lives with her wife and young daughter in the woods of Western Massachusetts.

Anxiety Poetry

GERD by Grace Alioke

morning crow escorts the
furnace feasting in your chest with

the rhythm of your heartbeat. what do
you do to the heart losing its crown to the wind?
you crawled as a wounded

snail to the doctor and the banshee scream
that pumped from your mouth

plastered on her table at her report:
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.
you’re chewing hope as the wheel leads

you to the theatre, and the crumps
grow wings:

I…will… live
I…will… live
I… will…live

Grace Alioke is a Nigerian writer and poet, decorator and a student of University of Benin. She writes only when her pen draws her. Her works have been published in Praxis magazine, Analogies & Allegories, Havilah Woman, and forthcoming in others. 

Book Reviews

The Madman Review

The Madman: His Parables and Poems

by Kahlil Gibran

2002 reprint of the 1918 original

Dover Publications

$4.95 paperback

ISBN 0-486-41911-8

Book reviewed by Kavita Khajuria

“Here I sit between my brother the mountain and my sister the sea. We three are one in loneliness, and the love that binds us together is deep and strong and strange”

The Madman is a collection of 34 poems and parables authored by well known legendary poet, artist and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran. Themes include suffering, solitude, imperfections, masks, misconceptions, perspectives and the self. This particular collection describes the power of freedom in authenticity. It resonates solitude, defiance and aloneness – deep expressions of the heart and soul, with certain aspects speaking to lost periods in ones life. Gibran questions as to whether one can truly accept and embrace all aspects of the self and challenges in this worldly life. He also addresses worldly power, potential ironies of justice and influence, the traps of enthronement and self absorption, and emphasizes the reality of imperfections and impermanence – as there is no ‘perfect’ person. This book contains deep expressions of the heart and soul, which can be profoundly healing, but should be used with caution, depending on the state of the mind of the reader.

Poetry Trauma

Electroconvulsive Therapy Made Me Forget Many Things But Not Grief by Ashley Sapp

It’s quiet when you forget. At first.
They warn you that the stimulation will result
in memory loss, but they don’t tell you that
what you’ll be left with is grief.
You will trade your recollection for your mind.
You will face a gaping hole where experience used to be.
There is sadness in forgetting, but you’ll regain yourself, too.
Pain fades and scars emerge.
It is slow but not gentle — unfortunately.
There is a price for everything. This, too.
That is why there is grief – you are better
and yet you cannot remember how or why.
It is quiet when you forget because
the silence is what remains. After.
The silence is a sorrow sonnet, reminding you not of what was lost
but instead of the fact that you lost it.
Say hello, though, now.
Introductions are my new saviors,
tiny initiations of person, place, and thing. Petrified and preserving,
I am returning. It is not so quiet.

Ashley Sapp resides in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband and furbabies. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of South Carolina in 2010 and has written for various publications. Her work has previously appeared in Indie Chick, The Daily Drunk Mag, All Female Menu, and the Common Ground Review. She is a bibliophile who enjoys traveling, tattoos, and photography. Ashley has written two poetry collections: Wild Becomes You and Silence Is A Ballad. Twitter: @ashthesapp

Anxiety Poetry

Fire by Jonathan Todd

When you get home I’ll be sober

on my 5th cup of coffee

out of a hot shower

thinking about the dried out corn stalks

I passed on my way back from the store.

Bought a pack of smokes & chocolate,

chanted worries,

wrote piano music.

Thought and thought,

ceaseless minor notes,

olive oil and kitchen lights,

a single rose as the cooler air slips on.

I decide against lighting the table on fire

slip out for a smoke

still hot from the shower

cells open

a branch wrapped around itself.

Go back and forth

til I remember the last hit of oak

and stare at the cut on my finger

near my wedding ring.

Today I told my therapist I

don’t believe in anything.

Not sure what I was trying to get across then.

Still not sure now.

Jonathon Todd is a poet and musician, living in South Philadelphia. His work deals with observations mainly written between breaks, trying to find humanity outside of and within labor. His work has been featured in Philadelphia Stories, Prolit mag, and Protean mag among others. His chapbook Over/time was recently released  from Moonstone Press (2019).

Book Reviews

Memories of Psychosis Review

Memories of Psychosis: Poems on the Mental Distress Experience By Neesa Sunar, 2019

124 pages

$ 12.99 Paperback

ISBN 978-1710719390

“..I’ve learned that those who seek are never lost, because curiosity is a light unto itself ”

This collection is a communication of suffering, existential struggle, yearning and hope. Themes include trauma, anguish, sexism, domestic violence and self esteem. Verses resonate with defiance, anger, pride and longing – yet also with fearlessness and astute insight. The reader can observe psychosis at times, sense the struggle and confusion, and paradoxically elsewhere, the clarity and spiritual awareness. 

Mental illness expressed in poetry carries tremendous weight. It allows us to feel and validate the plight of human suffering which can facilitate empathy and deepen compassion. It can also challenge assumptions and illuminate various aspects of ones life. It’s an example of art as a mechanism to enrich psychotherapy and the process of healing – which can facilitate a better understanding of the heart and soul beyond a diagnosis. It’s often used as a safe haven as part of the recovery process for those with chronic illness.

Book Review by Kavita Khajuria.

Depression Poetry

DEPRESSION by Janet McCann

I think of my parents living through it,

spaghetti with home-grown tomatoes for dinner,

an egg for breakfast. Downturn, slump.

I feel it in my stomach, hollow, hole,

concavity, dent, lack of roundness,

off-kilter sphere. There are pills for it

of course, they smooth out the sharp shards

at the bottom of the dent, but the declivity

is still there. “Hard times,” my grandfather

said. They lived mostly on the kitchen

garden. Preserves. I saw the jewels of their jars

shining on basement shelves. Slowdown. Standstill.

I have the megrims. There is a crater

in the macrocosm, nothing

is filling it up.

Janet McCann is a Texas crone poet who is retired from Texas A&M University.

Poetry Serotonin Trauma

8:05 am by C. Cimmone

I chewed up two of your Norco for breakfast

9:16 am The dirt daubers were busy twitching their abdomens in the garden, hauling away tiny bits of mud I’ll never do anything with, so I smoked the rest of your weed you had in a socket.

11:25 am I got carried away thinking about what to do with all of your t-shirts until I smelled the skillet burning bacon grease.

3:45 pm I used all of my Xanax up; I dug around in the medicine cabinet and gobbled up your leftovers, too. 

10:57 pm I forgot to lock the front door, so I laid there on your side of the bed, hoping an armed stranger would burst in and save me from thinking anymore about you being gone.

C. Cimmone is an author, editor and comic from Texas. She is alive and well on Twitter @diefunnier