Tag Archives: poetry

Used to Be an Artist

by James P Hassell


I only used to be an artist.

I was fearless in my ability to completely rip myself open just so someone could have just a little bit of meaning behind the shared and forced empathy of someone else.

I used to play matchmaker with verbs and nouns until their sweet love bore metaphors and similes.

But I quit painting my words so vividly.

Now, I’m far too concerned with keeping myself carefully stitched together. I’m the favorite doll from a childhood on its deathbed. Threadbare, but held together.

I am tired of dressing up mental illness as art.

Only so many of those similes can carry the weight of major depression disorder. A metaphor can only stretch so far until dysthymia and social anxiety snaps it like an overused rubber band.


No, I only used to be an artist. Now, I am an actor.


And maybe you want to argue that actors are artists but I will argue that art is true and acting is anything but.

So today I act.

Daily, I act.

When people ask how my day is going I tell them it’s good. Everything is good. Everything is fine.

I’m happy.

I go to therapy and I lie, which seems pointless but it keeps the prescriptions filled. Pop, pop, pop what seems like useless pills. But keep going on the stage to avoid the reality of a psychiatric hospital.


No, I only used to be an artist. Now, I bury my monster deep.

I live as an actor so well that I start to believe my script. I quit feeling real emotion. I quit feeling.

Anything. Nothing. My walls are all grey now.

I laugh and I smile on cue. Make the mark. This is what you want, right? No second takes.

But the sky of my soul is now empty. No, cloudy. No, vague. No….

No, without being able to feel I feel I have no soul.

I quit writing, I have nothing to say. I quit drawing, nothing comes without the pain to lead my hand across the page like a mother leading her child across the parking lot for the first visit to a toy store.

I quit saying “I love you.”

I quit loving.

I quit.


I only used to be an artist.