Earlier this week, Jessica Tate (You might also know her as Lilly Avalon or Jessica Sankiewicz) released her first collection of poetry, Now You Can See, which you can find on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can also find Jessica on Twitter. I have known Jessica for a few years and have always found her to be a kind and compassionate friend, storyteller and advocate for mental health. I invited her to talk a little bit about the connections between Now You Can See and mental health awareness. Enjoy!
When I started reading through my poetry to get it ready to publish, it was exciting. I was rereading my words from all those years ago, reconnecting with them all over again. Gradually the excitement wore off as the reminders of the past came at me.
These poems were written during a tough time in my early twenties. My family disapproved of my boyfriend at the time, forcing me to either break up with him or be kicked out of the house. Now back then, I thought he was The One. I loved him and thought he and I were going to get married. The idea of breaking up with him was devastating to say the least.
So he and I “broke up,” but secretly kept in touch. We mistakenly thought if we gave it time, my family would change their mind. The more time went by, the harder everything got. There were tensions between my family and I, between me and all the mutual friends my boyfriend and I had. I was caught in a whirlwind of frustration that appeared to have no end.
The only way I could cope was writing. It was the only place I felt safe enough to express myself since I couldn’t have honest conversations with anyone out loud without upsetting somebody.
My recent reread of these poems struck me pretty hard. At first it was nice, then when I remembered the reason and the circumstances behind each poem, it brought that pain right back.
I knew I struggled with depression during that time. I used to call it “situational depression” because I wasn’t “100%” depressed. The more I think about it now, the more I’m realizing how extensive my battle with mental illness has been. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years about depression, anxiety, and PTSD from friends and reputable online sources.
I was officially diagnosed with anxiety summer of 2015. When the nurse asked me questions to see if I had anxiety, I noticed a lot of them were similar to textbook depression questions. There is a fine line between them, and for myself, there are times it feels like I’ve fallen into depression because of my anxiety, and vice versa.
It’s easy to ignore these feelings, especially when they gradually seep in or we consider them normal. Reading through my old poems has caused me to come to the conclusion that writing saved me. I may have normalized what I was feeling, but I coped the only way I knew how. These “moments of depression” that I’ve faced over the years were often helped by getting it off my chest, even if it was just to myself.
Finding ways to get through the tougher times can make us a little stronger. It doesn’t make the depression or anxiety or anything else simply disappear or become immediately better, but it does help in its own way. And hopefully with that little bit of strength we can carry on and learn how to live with our mental health battles in a constructive and healthy way.
Thank you so much for this inspiring post, Jessica! I definitely agree that learning to cope with mental illness through healthy, expressive outlets is essential. I’m so glad that you have shared your experience and poetry with us.