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Breaking Down in the South by Gail White

Breaking Down in the South

by Gail White

It knocked me over to learn there’s no such thing

as a nervous breakdown. My aunts and uncles had them

all the time. It was spoken of in whispers,

like drink, divorce, and cancer. "Aunt Leona

had a Nervous Breakdown back in ’67,

and never took communion again—she thought

the devil had her." Enviable Aunt Leona,

sure of her standing with the Lord and Satan.

Uncle Eugene got violent when he drank

and ended up in a Home. They never said

whose home it was. Some people who broke down

looked fine to me, but still the fame and glamour

of a Nervous Breakdown hung around their necks

like a name-brand diamond. Now, in middle age,

I’m told my dismal state is just depression,

reactive, mild—here, try a little Prozac.

Damn it, I don’t want drugs. I only want

to be eccentric, batty, somewhat daft,

covered by Aunt Leona’s mental mist.

Again, my generation gets the shaft:

I’m due for a breakdown, and they don’t exist.

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