The Mighty Logo

How Poetry Helps Me Cope With Depression

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via g-stockstudio

Originally published: September 4, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home