“We’re the middle children of history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives” – Chuck Palahaniuk, Fight Club
I would say that I’ve never suffered from depression: depressed, yes, but not depression. The closest I’ve come is a few months after my dad’s death. As I adjusted to a new normal, I found myself growing numb towards everything and everyone. I preferred being alone more often than not; talking to others was burdensome and small-talk too difficult. Seeking solace in solitude, I found myself getting lost in my own thoughts and drifting into a spiral of negativity. However, this all eventually passed. Luckily, final exams and a job helped distract my mind and shift focus away from myself.
Over the last few years, I’ve noticed an uncomfortable phenomenon of friends and others I know of experiencing depression; sometimes even resulting in suicide. Speaking with one friend suffering, he told me he that while he knew what he was feeling was irrational, he was totally helpless and couldn’t shake it off or escape from it. I can’t fathom how bad a situation must be for suicide to become a final resort, but it’s more common than we care to admit: in the UK, it’s the biggest killer of men under 50.
Depression is difficult to talk about. When I was dealing with my dad’s death, I didn’t want to burden friends and family with my issues. I tried to avoid talking to others generally, but whenever I did, I became adept at hiding my feelings with a smile, a few jokes and a timely laugh. This seems to be the case with many of those suffering from depression. While things can appear okay on the surface, there is often a storm brewing in the background; and by the time the symptoms of depression are fully visible, it’s difficult to tackle.
On HaikuJAM, one topic we noticed people writing openly about is depression. A few of the jammers also reached out to us telling us about their depression and how writing about it with others has been therapeutic. With their help, I’ve collated 5 collaborative poems that provide a view on living with depression.
5 poems about depression
“My Depression” by Steven, Pooja & Leela
This Guardian piece put it very well in saying that depression is a disease of loneliness. There is often a negative feedback loop where depression drives loneliness and loneliness drives further depression. The feeling of being alone and without anyone to speak to can give people the idea that they are unloved and unvalued in this world. Not only is it important for those undergoing depression to speak up, it’s equally important for society to recognise those that may well be depressed and support them.
“Solitude” by The Serious Clown, Gautam & Roos
Being depressed and alone is a toxic combination: it’s a time where one turns inward and can lose themselves without the regulating forces of social interaction. It’s a paradox: a depressed person doesn’t necessarily want to be around others, but ultimately being around the right people is so important for overcoming depression.
“Untitled” by Jen, Arash & Sabina
Here’s a beautiful letter that Stephen Fry sent to a lady suffering from depression. In it, he told her that depression is like the weather: it’s real; you can’t change it by wishing it away; if it’s dark and rainy you can’t alter it; and it may be dark and rainy for two weeks straight. But it will be sunny one day. You can’t control when the sun will come out but it will come out. Similarly, depression will pass.
“Depression” by Kelsey, Alex & Heather
I love the ending to this. It serves to remind us that tomorrow represents hope, opportunity and a day of change. One conversation I had with someone who went through depression told me about the importance of finding out the things you love doing and forcing it into your routine – no excuses. It meant that regardless of everything else going on in life, there would be parts of the day to always look forward to.
“Bulb” by Andy, Praise & Roos
Depression is a global problem: the World Health Organisation estimates that 350 million people are suffering around the world. While there is a lot that Governments and health institutions can do around expanding mental health services and widening access, there are basic steps that we can take as individuals.
Roman Krznaric’s ‘Empathy Revolution’ places empathy as a central driver of social change. We can all be more open about our own feelings, listen to others more, connect through genuine conversation, have more encounters with friends and strangers, and be more understanding of other people’s situations. To be a source of hope for someone in a dark moment, you will quite literally change their world and the world around you. And for someone going through depression, empathy can help us realise that we are all in this ‘human experience’ together – both the good and the bad.
‘Speaking up’ is only one part of a problem. We as a society need to be more willing to engage in conversations about our feelings and provide a space for people to speak openly without feeling judged.
With HaikuJAM, we never sought to create a platform for people going through depression. But by providing a platform for people to connect and express themselves, people have naturally gone on to share their emotions and support each other. However, there shouldn’t need to be an ‘app for that’: more of this needs to be taking place in the world beyond our mobile phones.