The Questions 100 — No. 13: Shadé on Writing Poetry to Cope with Depression

NO. 13: HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE DEPRESSION AND COPE VIA POETRY?

SHADÉ (@SHADEJOSEPH) ANSWERS.

LOCATION: LONDON

“I looked up some symptoms for depression and I realized that I had some. And I was like, ‘Wow.’ I didn’t take too much noise of it at first. I was like, ‘Okay. Cool.’ But I still acknowledged that I was feeling really weird with how I was acting towards people. Even simple stuff, like not wanting to get out of bed at all, being scared to go outside and being amongst people.

Also, I suffer from sleep paralysis as well. I think the part for me was when I started hearing voices in my head – literally hearing them. Not like, ‘Oh I’m thinking about [voices, but] actually hearing voices in my head. I was like, ‘Wow, I just feel terrible.’ From that moment I was saying to myself, ‘Don’t pity yourself.’ That’s the first line in my poem. It’s, ‘Don’t pity yourself. Just see how you can navigate yourself through.’

But I think there was one moment, I went to the doctors and at the time I was suffering from a lot of headaches and stuff like that. I was taking co-codamol because I couldn’t sleep. When I first took that I went to sleep and was like, ‘Wow, I can take these.’ I started taking them regularly, not for sleeping pills, but just taking them to get rid of headaches and stuff. But I was happy that they were putting me to sleep. I went to the doctor and the doctor said to me, ‘You need to stop taking co-codamol because it’s ruining your bowels.’ I was like ‘Why?!’ When I realized, ‘Why am I upset about not being able to take pills anymore?’ I was like, ‘Okay, I need to sort myself out.’

From then, I just started to try to navigate myself through it — talking to myself, just trying to get myself out of it. Regardless of if I knew that I was going to feel terrible. I was like, ‘How can I feel terrible and still exist okay enough to get through my day?’

You know when you grow up in a house when you laugh all the time, you don’t realize what you’re going through. I didn’t realize that until I started growing up. Me, my mom and dad are very close, but I didn’t realize exactly what they were going through at the time. I was going through a lot of self…I wouldn’t say self-hate, but self-dislike about myself as a person. My body, everything. So that all added up by the time I acknowledged that, ‘Wow, I think I’m going through something.’

The other day at Subjectivity* someone came up to me and she was saying, ‘I’m going through depression now and that poem really helped me tonight.’ And I was like, ‘Wow.’ So you know you’re not just writing for the sake of writing. You know you’re writing for a reason. When people come to you and say, I felt like I was supposed to be here today to hear that poem you think to yourself like, ‘Wow.’

Everybody has some type of influence. Even if you’re doing your part, your small part, you can make it great, you can make it gradual, make it bigger and spread that. And that always keeps me humble and always makes me think, ‘Wow, I’m writing something, I’m going to perform that and people are going to be there, so I need to make sure I know what I’m putting out into that space because people are going to take that away.’ They’re either going not going to take it away or not take it away. So if you have the power for people to take away something, make sure that you say something important.

*An event in London where Shadé performed her poetry and where I met her.

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