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.
“Explaining My Depression to My Mother” by Sabrina Benaim
“Ohm” by Saul Williams
“Why are Muslims So…” by Sakila & Hawa
“14 Lines from Love Letters or Suicide Notes” by Doc Luben
“Some Things You Need to Know Before Dating Me” by Jamie Mortara
“What Society Says to Men” by Helly Shah
“AmeRícan” by Tato Laviera
“Through the Fence…” by Edward Vidaurre
“America” by Allen Ginsberg
“The Good Life” by Tracy K. Smith
“When a Boy Tells You He Loves You” by Edwin Bodeny
“OCD” by Neil Hilborn
“Peach Scone” by Hobo Johnson & the LoveMakers
“I Will Not Let an Exam Result Decide my Fate” by Suli Breaks
“Consent at 10,000 Feet” by Guante
“Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?” by Prince Ea
“To This Day” by Shane Koyczan
“34 Excuses for Why We Failed at Love” by Warsan Shire
“Storm” by Tim Minchin
“Chingona” by Leticia
“Afro-Latina” by Elizabeth Acevedo
“Juan Valdez” by Carlos Andres Gomez
“Dear Straight People” by Denice Frohman
“Poema XV”/ “I Like for You to be Still” by Pablo Neruda
“McAllen Our Rinconcito” by Priscilla Celia Suarez
“Some Days” by Amalia Ortiz
“For the Quiet Kids Who’ve Been Told ‘Speak Up'” by Grace Carras
Your love: a mixed tape the car stereo ate; a sell-by-date, batteries not included, rough around the edges; scentless potpourri
from Chapin City Blues
I started to celebrate National Poetry Month. And I pre-selected each poem the day I made my decision to do this. However, April 29th and 30th were left unfilled. I didn’t know what to put in there. During this time, I discovered (for myself) the poetry of Grace Carras. So I had to give her one of the two slots.
This last piece took me years to write and hours to record and mix. And I hope that you enjoyed this journey as much as I.
I spent years battling my depression and anxiety. And it’s one of my fears that they are traits I passed along to my son. Times when I watch his usual cheerful demeanor slip into a sulky state. Or when I see him anxious to join in the fun, but inevitably shying away.
I never speak of my battles with him, but I do ask him how he’s feeling. And tell him it’s o.k. to feel fear, but encourage him to break from his comfort zone. Never do I push him as that is often counterproductive.
At times, I try to be the person who wasn’t in my life. Not just a father, but someone who listened rather than gave me solutions to problems.
“Explaining My Depression to My Mother: a Conversation” by Sabrina Benaim hits home throughout the poem. Recognizing that my depression can be “as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear” while the next day be the bear itself. How I can focus on the thought that “every person I ever come to know/will die someday,” and that being unafraid of the dark is “part of the problem.”
There are many reasons to list why this particular poem resonates so much with my own depression, but it’s probably best if you hear it yourself.
mom, i am lonely. i think i learnt when dad left; how to turn the anger into lonely, the lonely into busy. when i tell you i’ve been super busy lately, i mean i’ve been falling asleep watching sportscenter on the couch to avoid confronting the empty side of my bed.
Ever feel stuck? Like you’re filled with so much motivation to create something that your brain is bursting at the seems? That your physical body goes through the motions because your mind is sussing things out. Building worlds. Building ideas. Handcrafting lyrics and paragraphs like verses. Testing out waters with other friends to see what they think. Wondering if you have it in you to go through with a plan for a change. Feeling that if your promotion doesn’t go through, then maybe it’s time to build a side hustle that could, one day, be a full time job.
That’s where I am at the moment. I’m revisiting writing. I picked up Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story yesterday at Barnes and Noble in hopes to get the old motor running again. I dedicated the year on reading poetry again (not exclusively, but I have been paying more attention to the genre); I finished Sabrina Benaim’s Depression & Other Magic Tricks today. The book’s an inspiration. (More on that later.)
Aside from writing, there’s, well, more writing. I’m working on an idea inspired by those Eat This, Not That book series. Except, rather saving you calories, I’m aiming something more popular culture. Unsure how that come to fruition right now, but I’m still mapping that out. Then there’s the sudden urge to record my voice and blast that off into the world (no idea why I want that).
I don’t know. I just feel stuck. And it’s not a fun feeling.
A lot of suicides in the media lately. It’s got me thinking, you know? It’s got me reading. There’s a lot of ugly in the world. So much sadness. There’s also beauty. And there’s hope. Even when things are bleak. I’m going to be reading up on things. And writing somethings. And there will be a post in the near future about the toxicity of nerdom. And there’ll be a post about suicide and depression. But for now, let the moonlight fill us up and bring us some peace.