Mind Health Blog

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Poetry: “Explaining Depression to My Mother” by Sabrina Benaim

*Transcript and Video included* Sabrina Benaim is a poet and author who speaks and writes about the topic of mental illness, specifically depression. Benaim also has a popular book, titled ‘Depression and Other Magic Tricks’ (below: click to go to amazon).
When she recited this poem, it was around 2014, based on my research of the YouTube video attached at the bottom if this post. 3 years later in 2017, she published her well-known book that has helped so many people gain the courage to attempt to explain their mental condition to a friend or family member.


Trying to explain to someone about what is going on inside your head is NOT an easy task, as many of you may know who have been through the same experience. Especially when most of the time we don’t even understand the feelings ourselves. Perhaps that’s why Benaim wrote this poem – to more accurately explain. Her words depict perfect metaphors of what it is like at times to feel yourself slipping into depression, and then being stuck in it. Many people tell you to ‘calm down’ or ‘lighten up’ or ‘give it to God!’ – all phrases that undermine the true experience of what it is like being trapped in your dark shell. In your head, all you can reply is – “Yeah, if it were able to think that way or feel that way, then I would – it’s not that simple – you haven’t lived it.” By reading and listening to poetry, such as Sabrina Benaim’s, it provides us with a sense of comfort that you are not the only one going through something like this and it helps you to relate to something, and maybe even explain it better yourself.06c59a63249fd10d8619adbc8503b818 If it helps, even try playing the video to the person that you are trying to explain to and tell them how it relates to you.

The advice I can give you is to use an appropriate tone of voice to explain your thoughts/feelings the best way that you can. When doing this, it’s important to set clear boundaries and clearly state what you need or what your expectations out of the conversation are. For example, starting the conversation with “I need to get something off of my chest…I am asking for help and asking for you to be a positive support in my life – what I need is for you to answer the phone when I call and just listen – after this conversation, I hope you understand better about how I am feeling and are maybe able to give me some insight or advice.”

Explaining My Depression to My Mother (Transcript)

Explaining my depression to my mother: A conversation Mom, my depression is a shapeshifter
One day it’s as small as a firefly in the palm of a bear
The next it’s the bear
On those days I play dead until the bear leaves me alone
I call the bad days “the Dark Days”
Mom says, “try lighting candles”
But when I see a candle, I see the flesh of a church
The flicker of a flame
Sparks of a memory younger than noon
I am standing beside her open casket
It is the moment I learn every person I ever come to know will someday die
Besides Mom, I’m not afraid of the dark, perhaps that’s part of the problem
Mom says, “I thought the problem was that you can’t get out of bed”
I can’t, anxiety holds me a hostage inside of my house, inside of my head
Mom says, “Where did anxiety come from?”
Anxiety is the cousin visiting from out of town that depression felt obligated to invite to the party
Mom, I am the party, only I am a party I don’t want to be at
Mom says, “Why don’t you try going to actual parties, see your friends”
Sure I make plans, I make plans but I don’t want to go
I make plans because I know I should want to go; I know sometimes I would have wanted to go
It’s just not that fun having fun when you don’t want to have fun, Mom
You see, Mom, each night Insomnia sweeps me up in his arms, dips me in the kitchen in the small glow of the stove-light
Insomnia has this romantic way of making the moon feel like perfect company
Mom says, “Try counting sheep”
But my mind can only count reasons to stay awake
So I go for walks, but my stuttering kneecaps clank like silver spoons held in strong arms with loose wrists
They ring in my ears like clumsy church bells, reminding me I am sleepwalking on an ocean of happiness that I cannot baptize myself in
Mom says, “Happy is a decision”
But my happy is as hollow as a pin pricked egg
My happy is a high fever that will break
Mom says I am so good at making something out of nothing and then flat out asks me if I am afraid of dying
No Mom I am afraid of living
Mom I am lonely
I think I learned that when Dad left how to turn the anger into lonely the lonely into busy
So when I say I’ve been super busy lately I mean I’ve been falling asleep watching SportsCenter on the couch
To avoid confronting the empty side of my bed
But my depression always drags me back to my bed
Until my bones are the forgotten fossils of a skeleton sunken city
My mouth a boneyard of teeth broken from biting down on themselves
The hollow auditorium of my chest swoons with echoes of a heartbeat
But I am just a careless tourist here…

Resources: https://genius.com/Sabrina-benaim-explaining-my-depression-to-my-mother-annotated

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