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11 Slam Poetry Videos That Get Real About These 5 Mental Illnesses

Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Managing a mental illness diagnosis (or multiple diagnoses) can be challenging at times. Coping with mental illness looks a little different for everyone — and there’s no “right” way to cope. For some, it might look like listening to podcasts. For others, it might be carving out “me” time in a busy schedule. Some people choose to write what they’re feeling — and while many writers choose to keep their writing to themselves, others may decide to perform their poetry and prose on stage in front of an audience.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of slam poetry videos from 13 poets who share their experiences with five different mental illnesses. In addition to showcasing these artists who “get real” about mental health, we’ve including sample lines from their work you might relate to. If poetry is something that brings you comfort, we hope you enjoy listening to what these poets have to say.

If you are a poet who writes about mental health and are looking for a place to share your work with others who really “get it,” join our Mighty community by posting a “Thought” with the hashtag #MightyPoets.

1. Eating Disorders

“5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder” by Megan Maughan

Megan Maughan is a slam poet who wrote the following poem in response to a damaging viral article she saw called, “5 Reasons to Date a Girl With an Eating Disorder.” She performed this poem at Indiana University in 2014.

Editor’s Note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following video and poetry excerpt could be potentially triggering. Please be cautious when reading, and take care of yourself. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

One. Her obsession over her body will improve her overall looks.

She will never leave the house without makeup,

will always take the time to cover the purple and blue ringing her eyes,

to brush her greying hair that falls out when you touch it.

Her hands are soft with lotion she uses to smooth the teeth marks on her knuckles

Her nails are always well manicured so they don’t scratch her throat.

2. Bipolar Disorder

“Patron Saint of Manic Depressives” by Clementine von Radics

Clementine von Radics is a poet, editor and essayist living in New York. Their work focuses on the “queer femme” experience, romance and the body. The term “queer femme” refers to a queer person who presents and/or acts in a feminine manner. In their poem, “Patron Saint of Manic Depressives,” von Radics gets real about bipolar disorder.

I have spent countless nights grieving my own brain

but tonight, I sing of its brilliance

in the way that only I can

and thank the stars for that

for this new joy

for this good blood

for the beauty I find in the river it takes to carry me there

3. Anxiety

“Ode to the Public Panic Attack” by Andrea Gibson

In “Ode to the Public Panic Attack,” Gibson talks about the places where they have had panic attacks. If you have had panic attacks in public, you may relate to this poem.

If you’ve never had a panic attack,
There’s a good chance you’ve been an ass
To someone who has.

“Just relax”
And “calm down”
Always seem like helpful things

To scream if oxygen
Has never been over your head,
If your body has never become its own corset.

“Anxiety Isn’t Cute” by Alyse G.

Alyse G. is a poet who tied for sixth place at the Vancouver Women’s Poetry Slam Championships on Jan. 13, 2016. In the poem, “Anxiety Isn’t Cute,” Alyse explains what anxiety is to those who don’t understand.

I’ll tell you,

Anxiety is feeling hopeless and isolated when nobody contacts you,

But overwhelmed when they do,

When every single social interaction is bigger than life,

Believing that everyone is always judging you,

Strangers, parents, loved ones.

“Anxiety Group” by Catalina Ferro

Catalina Ferro is a spoken word poet from New York City. In “Anxiety Group,” Ferro sprinkles a little bit of comedy in her poem to describe how exhausting living with anxiety can be.

Melatonin makes me sad,

Benadryl is for amateurs,

Hypnotics turn off the lights too quickly,

And weed makes me crazy.

Diazepam, Lorazepam, Bromazepram, Alprazolam,

Klonopin is the only thing that works

And they’re weaning me off it,

So, like a baby forced to remove breast from mouth, take bottle instead,

I got sent to anxiety group.

4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

“OCD” by Neil Hilborn

Neil Hilborn is a slam poet from Houston. His personal experiences and battles with mental illness are often the focus of his poetry. In “OCD,” Hilborn examines a past relationship that was affected by his OCD. He shares his love for his girlfriend motivated him to abandon some of his OCD rituals, though they eventually broke up.

When you have obsessive compulsive disorder, you don’t really get quiet

moments.

Even in bed, I’m thinking:

Did I lock the doors? Yes.

Did I wash my hands? Yes.

Did I lock the doors? Yes.

Did I wash my hands? Yes.

5. Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

“A Good Day” by Kait Rokowski

Kait Rokowski is a writer living in New York. In Rokowski’s poem, “A Good Day,” she talks about having a good day while dealing with depression and suicidal ideation.

See, she remembers what came before this.

The weeks where I forgot how to use my muscles,

how I would stay as silent as a thick fog for weeks.

She thought each phone call from an unknown number

Was the notice of my suicide.

These were the bad days.

My life was a gift I wanted to return.

My head was a house of leaking faucets and burnt-out lightbulbs.

“Suicide Note” by Akeemjamal Rollins

Akeemjamal Rollins is a poet from Ohio who began slamming at age 14. Here is a performance of his poem, “Suicide Note,” for the 2014 Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam.

Don’t you show me what I got to live for,

Don’t make me want this again,

Please don’t make me fight.

I’m tired.

And no I don’t want it to get better,

“Better” is only a father’s presence.

Don’t wash off the scabs,

Don’t fix the brokenness,

That is all that I know.

“Healing” by Nayo Jones

Nayo Jones is a spoken word poet and musician from Philadelphia. She is part of the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Movement. In her poem, “Healing,” Jones discusses her struggles with self-love and suicidal ideation.

I remember hating myself at the age of 7,

Journals filled to the brim with criticisms by 8,

I had enough pages to stitch them into wings,

to fly close enough to the sun to see my tears turn to steam,

felt the wax burn on my shoulders and mold into thick skin.

I was 9 when I wanted to die.

“Every 40 Seconds” by Patrick Roche

Patrick Roche is a spoken word poet and mental health advocate from New Jersey. His debut chapbook, “Wait 30 Minutes,” looks at the intersectionality of love, loss, mental health, sexuality and more.

When we tell you we are suicidal, it can be a cry for help,

But that’s not a sign of weakness,

This is not a sign of weakness.

This is saying we’re fighting,

And we’ve been fighting with every weapon and fist we have.

We’ve crashed against the cliffside broken and splintered,

But we’re still fighting with whatever we can.

I’m using my voice.

It’s all I have left.

“I Won’t Write Your Obituary” by Nora Cooper

Nora Cooper is an American poet. Her poem, “I Won’t Write Your Obituary,” discusses how she will be there for a friend who is struggling with suicidal ideation and does not want them to kill themselves.

I will write you songs.

I can’t write music,

But I’ll find Rihanna and I’ll get her to write you music,

If it’ll make you want to dance a little longer.

I will write you a body whose veins are electricity,

Because outlets are easier to find than good shrinks.

But we will find you a good shrink.

I will write you 1-800-273-8255,

That’s the suicidal hotline.

We can call it together.

And yeah, you can call me,

But I won’t tell you it’s OK.

If you are struggling with mental illness, know that you’re not alone. Poetry or other art forms can be a great outlet for expressing what you’re going through. In addition to creative expression, it’s also important to seek mental health treatment in the form of therapy, medication or both. Talking to your doctor about your symptoms is the first step to managing your mental health.

If you need support or just want to share some poetry you wrote about your journey with mental illness, you can always turn to The Mighty community by posting using our hashtag #MightyPoets.

If you need immediate help or are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

For more mental health-related poetry, you can check out these poems written by our community:

Have you heard a slam poem about mental illness not on our list? You can share it below in the comments.

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