Personal Narrative: I Was Raised By Depression

The Thrill is proud to feature personal narratives. Today’s is authored by Sarah Hobbs ’15. It was originally written as a spoken word poem for Breaking the Silence, an event hosted by the Peer Counselors in the aim of fighting the stigma surrounding notions of mental health and mental illness.

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I was raised by depression.

From day 1 postpartum held me

And around day 2190 manic arrived to take control.

I saw firsthand the tears and the madness,

I breathed in deeply the secondhand sadness,

I felt the hands of this disease all over,

And yet I lived by those hands.

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Who knew the hands that gave comfort and warmth and love

Could feel so foreign and hurt so much?

Depression was both my survival and my greatest fear–

With this disease you live year by year, month by month, day by day, minute by minute,

On a roller coaster blindfolded with no off switch and no warning to buckle up for the ride.

There’s no safety inside of the home of depression.

It was as if I wandered the streets and chose a residence at random to enter daily.

The stranger who greeted me was sometimes smiling,

Sometimes I was met by cold fury, as if I were a disease that must be either scared away or fought.

More often than not, it was empty.

Depression was not a word I used.

Sadness was what you felt when someone died.

Pain was a black eye.

Bi polar was this stupid Ohio weather and everyone knew it.

You didn’t come to school and talk about a bi polar parent.

You didn’t speak of how the icy words you heard gave you such pain,

You couldn’t even name the sadness that slowly churned to anger and strained the depths of your heart.

Someone I knew had died.

And their body was possessed by something called bi polar.

And no one knew.

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I wore depression in a backpack, stored it in a secret pocket, locked it up inside with no way of finding the key because  I had thousands of them.

And I wore this backpack every day, slept in it–or rather tried to.

It weighed me down as I waded through hospital visits and the deepest abyss of absence.

The kind where the person you love is still there, but just a shell filled with every kind of pill you can think of and more.

Depression isn’t cancer.

People don’t run for depression, they only run from it

And the cards and the casseroles and the support don’t come for it

‘Cause the psych ward is for people who don’t deserve to be comforted.

No patience for these people, who are just taking a vacation

Because they just can’t handle life’s ups and downs and chances and changes,

They don’t have the right motivation or attitude or focus

And so the side effects are that their children go unnoticed.

Or maybe people just don’t want to know.

Maybe I don’t want to know either,

But I’ve worn for too long my backpack clad exterior

I can’t take it off.

It’s my shield.

It held me together through the unpredictability

Spitting out “I’m fine” in every situation

Even when I screamed from inside, even when I couldn’t even find the words to express whatever I was feeling

To the point that I buried those emotions so deep within me a recovery mission would be a lifelong endeavor.

Moving on is easier when I avoid home,

When I avoid depression’s eyes.

When I join society in this silence

Because that’s what society gave me,

Nothing.

Clearly, it’s working.

4 responses

  1. Thank you, Sarah. This piece is beautifully written– vivid, painful, honest– and it opened my eyes. I hope many people get to read this. It will change them.

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