The Starry Night
(original post December 13, 2013)
Back in my teens I listened to a lot of music, and there was one album for which I had a strange attraction – American Pie (Don McClean). One of the songs on that album was entitled Vincent. It had a very haunting quality and a message that I did not understand, yet I knew somehow that it was a profound message.
It was not until I spent four years in the service and returned home to attend college that I even began to grasp its meaning. One day as I sat looking at my Art 101 textbook, I saw a painting that absolutely hypnotized me – The Starry Night. I noticed that the artist was Vincent van Gogh. The opening words to the song, Vincent, came into my mind – “Starry, starry night..” Not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, it still took me a few more clues to put it all together. Those clues came from van Gogh’s bio. He was a very sensitive man who struggled with anxiety, depression, and so on. It is thought that he took his own life. Bingo. I finally got it…and from that day forward, The Starry Night has been my favorite painting. Little did I know that it would have much more significance in my life in years to come.
After I had been off Klonopin for about 13 months, I joined Benzobuddies. One evening I was reading a post from a lady who was about 4 months ahead of me and struggling with extremely black depression. I was just beginning to feel “strong” enough emotionally to reach out to someone in a meaningful way. She was the first one. I would try to post as much hope as I could on her blog. One evening I had what I thought was a great idea – something that she could look forward to and maybe give her a little extra hope.
During my withdrawal, I latch hooked dozens of rugs and wall hangings to distract myself as much as possible and ”get through time” – purely a survival strategy. I had always wanted to latch hook The Starry Night and had recently found someone with a pattern for it. I sent for the pattern and asked my friend on Benzobuddies on her blog what her favorite painting is. I was hoping it would be The Starry Night so I could tell her I would hook it for her and send it to her when she was feeling well. Her favorite painting was something I had never heard of…. But another person who was still in the midst of withdrawal who also wrote on that blog responded with the answer I was looking for…The Starry Night. And, her favorite song….Vincent. What are the odds? Slight change of plans.
I asked her permission to tell the story. Her name is chrysanthemum. This painting “inquiry” occurred about 20 months ago, and chrysanthemum was still very ill. I asked her if she would like a latch hook wall hanging of The Starry Night. She said she would. So, in the summer of 2012, I made the wall hanging (48”x40” – and it’s awesome). We agreed that, as she started to feel better, I would ship it to her. Three months ago, I noticed that she wrote her success story on Benzobuddies – a remarkable story which included a very difficult and painful taper from an opiate (in addition to the benzo). So, I sent her a message about The Starry Night. Another change of plans.
As she has been healing, she has also had to deal with someone in her family with substance abuse issues. Over the course of this difficult situation, the individual ended up in a psych hospital for 14 days where a certain painting was prominently displayed. Yep, The Starry Night.
Chrysanthemum had the courage to tell me the story and that she didn’t feel it would be best for her to be reminded of that whole experience every time she saw the wall hanging. She graciously suggested hanging it in the healing house – an excellent idea.
I really can’t think of a more meaningful or appropriate place to display it because the objective or purpose of the healing house embodies what, to me, is the message of the song Vincent. It’s a place of validation and acceptance of those going through benzo withdrawal and all the “mental/emotional” symptoms  that go with withdrawal (and will be more so once I can get someone else there).
I think of the words in the song, ”They would not listen. They did not know how. Perhaps, they’ll listen now.” Many of us have had to endure intense suffering from being on psych drugs and also the withdrawal from them simply because they (mental health professionals) have not listened. They try to push answers either in the form of drugs or telling us what we need to do to get well – without listening to us – asking us – letting us be human and communicate and act on our feelings and emotions.
So many of us end up on prescription drugs where no amount of listening will help because our original distresses have now been greatly increased by the drugs themselves making the original distresses rather minor by comparison. Even if we get ourselves off the drugs, they don’t accept that withdrawal can be prolonged and absolutely gruesome – they still don’t listen (although a few are starting to).
So, until the day arrives when they do listen, we will listen to each other in whatever way we can find. That is where healing happens…places like here, the forums, and the healing house.
For me, The Starry Night is a symbol of healing for many of us who have been made ill by psychiatric drugs (and their withdrawal) and who will be mentally and emotionally stronger and wiser than we ever were before that darkness was thrust upon us.
Vincent  (Don McClean)
Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land

Now I understand what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of China blue
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand

Now I understand what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you, Vincent
This world was never meant
For one as beautiful as you

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget
Like the strangers that you've met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
A silver thorn, a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will.