If you or someone you know if sad much of the time, is withdrawing from things they used to enjoy, seems hopeless or having thoughts about death, this poem may resonate with you. I wrote it sometime last year during a particularly long stretch of down days. I've struggled with depression on and off throughout my life, and writing about it has always helped. I encourage others experiencing depression to speak to someone you trust, and own that it happens. But don't let it define you. Being sad isn't all you are...you are a bright, blooming, vessel of energy beneath the veil of depression.
by Kambria Kennedy-Dominguez
Nine days passed, or twenty nine, or ninety nine.
Breath keeps coming, oxygen flows in and out,
I am breathing above great wall of water.
Only to find I’m trapped again beneath
Clear white water turns to stale black confinement
A trick of the mind
Makes me believe I am sadness.
From under it I gasp, I must rise-- it is only water!
I command myself without compassion for illness or exhaustion
I must transcend this trick, expose the foolery of a sad mind
I grasp, I swim, I grasp
Upward toward air and daylight
As if there is leverage between finger and water
I slip down, giving way to downward pressure,
Moving fast to swallow me whole.
How scary is this darkness and the sinking--
What fear is provoked in the heart of a child to be swallowed up!
Fear leaves its image upon us, like a permanent tattoo,
Like a searing brand proving ownership.
Please share this with anyone you know. Forward to friends, share on Facebook, tweet and retweet. There are lots of organizations whose mission is to end the stigma around mental health issues. A particularly great page is http://notalone.nami.org. There are some courageous stories here of real people experiencing psychological pain.
I don't really like the term "mental illness" because it implies pathology or disease, and it's not always helpful to label our experience that way. One of the hallmarks of the counseling profession is our uniquely developmental and strengths-based perspective. Counseling grew from the need for career guidance in the early part of the 20th century when wartime in America shifted its workforce needs. The earliest counselors helped people find what they're really good and enjoyed, and encouraged them to follow that career path. This emphasis on the clients' assets and how they can become productive members of society continues to inform our profession today.
My own story reflects this. I've experienced depression, discouragement, ill health from lack of self-care, family issues, etc. Because others have helped me find encouragement and recognition of my strengths, I (most days) am lifted above depression to find my vessel of energy to bloom and Flourish...
Kambria Kennedy-Dominguez, Counselor and yoga teacher specializing in mental health, substance abuse and wellness.