How Poetry Helps Me Cope With Depression

If you know me, I’ve been writing since high school. I had an incredible teacher who showed me the therapeutic power of writing. I wrote newspaper articles and reviews and I wrote stories I never finished. I also wrote poetry. I devoured poetry in high school. I would cherish when the assignment was to analyze a poem. I even fell for Latin American poets in a Latin American literature class, even choosing to do two (completely separate) projects for two different classes on Gabriela Mistral. For my 21st birthday, I got Neil Hilborn’s poetry book and a special edition of Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy.”

My love for poetry stems beyond the basic narrative and haiku-style poems. Recently, I started writing what is known as slam poetry. I have never felt as free as I have when writing poetry that is intended to be spoken and performed dramatically. Up until now, identifying my emotions has been extremely hard for me. But when I started writing more poetry, I became more aware of my feelings and my emotions. My therapist calls this a healthy coping mechanism because I am learning to express myself through this. I tend to stuff my emotions down and writing poetry brings them up in a safe way.

Even just watching poets at poetry slams is comforting. Many of the poems openly talk about issues they personally face. I watched Danez Smith’s poem “Today” on Button Poetry and I saw the bravery it took to go out there and talk about his HIV status. I cried seeing Neil Hilborn perform “Joey” and “The Future,” my copy of his book stained with tears as I related all too much as I rode the bus to work.

I like these poems because they make you feel. Your emotions are intensified as you watch someone creatively express something you struggle with.

There are days when I can’t write because I can’t get out of bed due to my depression, or I can’t leave the house because my anxiety is coursing through my veins. I can still watch or read and understand, and maybe try and write down something, anything. This is my coping mechanism; when I can’t sleep because of my anxiety or insomnia, I write. When my depression spirals me into self-harmful behavior, I write. It’s not a cure-all method, but for me, it helps. And while I have yet to compete, let alone perform in front of someone other than my reflection, you better bet one day I will be at that microphone, showing my anxiety and depression that they can’t get me today.

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