Poetry Break

“My Mother Explains My Depression to Me” by RJ Walker

Sometimes you experience Sabrina Benaim’s poem, other times you experience RJ Walker’s. I have experienced both in the same conversation. Sorta.

The subject of my depression and anxiety is tip-toed around. We know it’s there, and we acknowledge its existence from time to time, but we never talk about it. Because the emotions that swell up in both of us creates a wind vortex and billows out into a tornado – and quite frankly, I don’t know how tornadoes work.

I spent my twenties explaining to my mom that depression wasn’t caused by not going on; it’s actually the other way around. And while my mother was more understanding than the one Walker portrays in his poem, there were moments of reassurance.

This isn’t your fault. My depression wasn’t caused by something you did. My wiring was just bad. The warranty ran out before I was even born. It was in the genes before you and Dad ever met. And the two of you may have created something beautiful, but the beautiful was just a bombshell waiting to explode.

I tried to explain once that, like the X-Men, depression lay dormant in my genetic code. And like the mutant heroes, it appeared when I hit puberty. And unlike the mutant heroes, my superpower is useless. Except I can write you a story. A poem. I can describe to you the way I feel without making you feel miserable yourself. Because it’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault. These were the cards I was dealt, and I’ll play my hand. I’ll bluff when I need to. I will fold when I have to.

But I will reshuffle them again in hopes that I will see a better hand.

I am lucky to have a mother who is understanding, even when she doesn’t understand me one hundred percent of the time. And it’s heartbreaking to learn that not everyone has that in their lives. That leaving is the only option to keep your head above the water. I try to be that for my own son. Try to tell him that it’s ok to feel sad, to cry. To not fear expressing those feelings to me.

Because I never want to be the parent who tries to explain his feelings to him.

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