I get by with a little help from my pens.

My first fountain pen was a burgundy Sheaffer No-Nonsense. I taped a feather to it and kept it in a writing slope with some gilded stationery, sealing wax, and brass page points. I was thirteen and very sophisticated.

I didn’t have the patience to learn much beyond my first name in Gothic script, but that pen provided a still, quiet place in those early days of my mental illness. I could be raging and desperate when I picked it up, but the sound of the nib scratching at the paper, the feedback vibrating up the pen into my fingers, the ink flowing from the silver tines like a ribbon being untied caught me, slowed me down.

Many years, many doctors, many methods and medications to manage manic depression later and I still come back to this simple practice of putting a pen to paper. Any form of dragging an inky stick across a page makes me feel better. It is action where I am helpless, motion where I am stuck. I push my mood forward with the pen, nudging it, heaving it across the page until it goes quiet. It is less of a hobby than it is medicine. I take it daily, whether I want to or not.

Pens are just a trick. Bait. The shiny object that lures my hand to paper and coaxes me to write. My husband gives them to me as often as he can, like some men give flowers. Birthdays, bad days, just-thinking-of-you, hope-you-snap-out-of-it days. Some are so painfully gorgeous they can be almost impossible to use. Some are plain and hardworking. Some are always, always with me. My therapist once had me count how many fountain pens I had in my bag during our session. There were eleven. She asked how much time I typically spend writing with them when I am out of the house, carting three small children around town. Zero minutes. But just knowing they are there, my tiny Ebenezers, gives me peace.

Would you like to meet them?