anxiety depression Fiction photo photography Prose

The Dirty Work

You can throw all of the pills down the drain. It makes for a moment of defiance, of clarity. But does it change the underlying cause? Do you have a plan beyond turning on the disposal and feeling a bit better about yourself?

Because now the hardest part comes in: talking about the dread and the shame. Dredging up all of the unwelcome and lingering thoughts pinging around your head all of the time. Fighting the feelings that threaten to torpedo your psyche.

© 2023 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

photo photography Prose

More Than Blue

Grandmother called it the blues
Because she didn’t want to give
It any more weight.
She thought she could contain it.
But it rolls down the generations,
Gathering dark energy all the while.
It got you at the umbilical, child, and
Now you’ve grown and it’s got you whole.
Every day a version downgrade from
The last. The last.

© 2022 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.


Long Way Back

Inside the endless night
I’m prisoner to the poisonous ways
Depression has to take root
And blackout your days.

Insidious and random,
The victims are too many to count.
Discovering at some dreadful point
This disorder, this jail, won’t let you out.

Giving in to the immense black hollow
Is easy and sometimes we do.
I’ll try to come back,
To be the person I once knew.

It’s such an long fight
When it’s burrowed so deep.
Your mind, the your soul.
What else can you keep?

I will feel worthless and I’ll stumble
And fall down the long flight of steps
That lead the way back
To the light that signals success.

I hope when I get there,
Because I have to believe that I will,
That you’ll be waiting,
In love with me still.

© 2022 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.



Must you admit the jet-black thoughts
And the dreadful anxiety to anyone?
Does it make anything better?

You don’t need to confess.
You own your toxic mélange
And if you bottle it up,
You think you get to choose to uncork it.

I know only this: It will come out.
Seeping through the fissures
Or exploding like a suppressed volcano.
Tell loved ones to stand clear,
If there are any left to damage.

© 2022 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

essay Health non-fiction Prose

A New Outfit, but the Same Enemy As Before

Ointments, lotions and creams. Not in a good way, as some kind of foreplay, but for ailments and pain, recently diagnosed and life-changing at that. There were pills, of course, and painful tests, followed by follow-ups and re-checks. Ad infinitum.

When you’re young, a variety of things signal being old in your mind. Some are vague and others sharp and clear. Medical woes existed as a collective: vague, but certain. And now that they are here, it’s not quite what you expected and that is probably a good thing. If you’d known that the toxic fog of frustration, pain and uncertainty would hang over you along with the diagnosis itself, your anxiety would have skyrocketed in advance. Little favors, I suppose.

With this new reality comes the knowledge that life will have new limitations. At some point, very drastic ones. So now you fight the demons of depression and anxiety and the physical barriers. As you lay in bed, the same feelings wash over you as when you battled your thoughts and feelings: my body and my mind are my enemies.

© 2022 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

Health Small Fiber Neuropathy


I was recently diagnosed with Small Fiber Neuropathy. Small fiber neuropathy occurs when the small fibers of the peripheral nervous system are damaged. Small fibers in the skin relay sensory information about pain and temperature. What this means for me is that my feet experience a very odd sensory combination of tingling, burning, numbness and pain. So, every moment I’m awake I feel this misfiring of neurons and the more I walk, the worse it gets.

I’ve also been severely depressed for fifteen years. Some doctors and researchers believe that chemical imbalances and miscommunicating neurons in your brain are to blame for it. I’ve tried all kinds of pills, ketamine and even, a bit ironically at this point, electroconvulsive therapy. Shocking my brain to get my neurons to reset. Now, I have my neurons breaking down in my feet in kind of a mirror of my brain. A constant reminder of the fact that not only my mind betrays me, but the rest of my body is following suit.

The long-term prognosis with neuropathy is quite grim, but not without a little gallows humor. When the burning and pain in your feet stop, many patients feel that the disease has stopped, but in reality that means the nerves in your feet aren’t working anymore at all. Which then leads to stumbling and falling and possibly the complete loss of mobility as the numbness moves up your legs. Fun times ahead.

© 2022 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.

non-fiction Prose


You can’t get out. You signed yourself in and you signed away your rights. An argument can be made in hindsight that a suicidal person probably shouldn’t be signing anything, but the goal was to get therapeutic assistance, so it loses importance in comparison to the urgent reason you are there.

They took your belt and shoelaces, of course. You didn’t expect to end up here (though you should have factored it in if your attempt was unsuccessful), so not being dressed for the occasion is a drawback. No stretchy pants and comfortable slippers. No hospital-approved toiletries. You’ll pack an asylum bag next time, you think. Like a deeply depressed Boy Scout.
The smell is appropriate: faint bleach mixed with hand sanitizer, buffered by sweat and despair. The whiteboard lists everyone on my wing. First name, last initial, room number and doctor. Next to it, the schedule for each day and hours of the week. Your run book for however long you are deemed a danger to yourself. Crafts and group therapy interspersed with carbohydrates and breaks. Breaks where you do nothing but watch the clock and wonder how you will ever get out. Maybe you think a bit about how you ended up in here, but mostly you count minutes.

You pray the ones worse off than you- the schizophrenics who shift imperceptibly between reality and their delusions-don’t sit down next to you on the vinyl couches. You hope the television will miraculously offer up a movie all of the angry inmates can agree on. Just for a distraction. If only to quiet the loud ones who are intent on letting everyone know that they shouldn’t be in here. They never seem to realize that the more they go on, the nurses take notes and their temporary fate is sealed. It is the ammo they need to max out their stay for the insurance money.

Because it’s not really about stabilizing you or helping you. Some of the staff do want to help, but they put you on a few meds and you say the right things enough times to the psychiatrist you see for five minutes every other day, and then you hit your week and freedom awaits. You’re not better. You just get to leave.

© 2022 Jeff E. Brown. All rights reserved.