Last semester, I had the stressful (yet surprisingly enjoyable) task of writing my Senior Capstone for my Undergraduate Degree at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Since I’m an English Major on the tract of Creative Writing, I had a lot of opportunity to find my own creative space, and to write something that would mean a lot to me and would hopefully point to where I’d like my writing to go in the future. I’ve always been drawn primarily to writing poetry. Throughout my college career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some excellent writers and to be taught by amazing poets. These people have helped me to find my voice as a writer.
For my Capstone project, I decided to write a collection of poems that would focus on the issues of depression, anxiety, and recovery. When I presented these poems, one of the teachers in my department asked me why I chose to write about these topics. My answer was this: There is a stigma in our culture surrounding mental illness. We are told to hide our depression and our anxiety, because it makes Normal People feel uncomfortable. Those of us who deal with mental illness are seen as the “Other”. Our problems are not always taken seriously, because it is difficult for us to describe our problems to people who have not experienced what we go through. I wanted to write a collection of poems that would show how people with mental illness experience their issues. I wanted to prove that depression and anxiety manifest themselves in different ways, for different people.
As I’m currently in my last semester of college, and the pressure of the Real World is getting closer and closer to me, my personal anxiety has been manifesting in new (and very annoying) ways.
This is a poem that was written as a part of my collection. I want to note that the character in this particular poem is experiencing a particular type of anxiety in a particular way. It is not this way for all people. My hope is that this poem will open some eyes, and maybe even speak to some hearts. If you are going through your own depression or anxiety, be aware that there is a way to cope. You’re not always going to feel good, and you’re not always going to feel like the pain is going to end. But it will. We are all living, breathing, sad, and happy things. You are not alone.
Andrea says her wrists are bullseyes,
and she shoots an arrow at them every day.
She braces herself, pulls back, deep breath, lets go.
Waits for impact
of point to skin, hard and sharp.
As soon as the red drips out,
she can breathe again.
She says she takes three showers a day,
four on weekends,
but she never feels clean.
She can’t get the dust from the mouths
of angry men out of her hair, can’t get the smell
of her own blood off of her hands.
She scrubs and scrubs
until her arms look like sandpaper,
feel as dry as the inside of her mouth.
Andrea says the psychiatrist thinks
she’ll find a good man someday.
And that would be nice if she weren’t so in love
with the woman who does her dry-cleaning.
She says Heaven is so far away,
but the clouds seem pretty close,
so maybe if she just climbed up to the roof of her building
she could hang out with them for a while,
watch them break apart in the air.
Things might feel a little better.
Andrea tells me the last thing she’d ever do is die,
cause, hell, it will be the last thing she does.
But she’s scared of death,
of what happens after, because she’s afraid
she’ll end up in a place just like this,
feeling just as sad as she did before.
She doesn’t care if anyone else feels like she does
cause sometimes, she needs to feel like she does.
And it can’t be my pain,
cause she’s the one who couldn’t get out of bed this morning.
The chain that ties her to the bedpost
pulled her back to the sheets.
She can’t believe that “it gets better”,
cause today, it can’t get better. Today,
air keeps finding its way into her lungs
no matter how hard she tries to keep it out.
Today, she feels the pressure of the air building up
in the empty space around her. She says
it feels like when she was in the fourth grade
and the fat kid sat on her chest
telling her to suck it up, queer, or he’d squash
the breath right out of her.
Andrea says she misses her father
and the way he used to rock her
when she was a child.
She says she wishes she could fall asleep,
and that she didn’t always feel like she
just woke up.
Andrea says she’s okay.
Tomorrow she’ll feel better.
She says I shouldn’t worry.