I have become increasingly fond of spoken word. I have subscribed to several YouTube channels and blogs that post videos and recordings of spoken word poems. A particular poem was posted in 2013, but has been gaining popularity recently. Now with over 15 million views on YouTube, Shane Koyczan’s To This Day has launched a massive discussion on bullying, depression and human impact. [Before continuing to read, please watch the video here or read/listen to the lyrics of the poem here – I will be using quotes from the poem the rest of this post].
“We are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway. And if in some way we are, don’t worry. We only got out to walk and get gas.”
When I first watched this video, I couldn’t stop the tears for a while. Everything Koyczan said made me feel so understood. This past fall, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and dysthymia (a chronic type of depression in which a person’s moods are regularly low – more long-term than symptoms of major depressive disorder. However, symptoms are not as severe as with major depression). I have been struggling with these symptoms for years now, and these past few months have been really hard as I cycle through different medications. This video could not have come at a better time in my life.
Koyczan begins by telling his own story. We all have our stories of how this stuff has affected us. We all take stressors in our lives different ways. Each person has something called “resilience.” This is defined as “an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity.”1 Some people have more resilience than others; therefore, they can cope better with stressors in their lives. My story can be traced back to my childhood – elementary and middle school, specifically. I’m not going to go into specifics since those are details that I consider very personal, but I can say that Koyczan saying, “I am not the only kid who grew up this way” is completely true.
“School halls were battlegrounds and we found ourselves outnumbered day after wretched day.”
He references the typical rhyme we were always told when being bullied: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
“As if broken bones hurt more than the names we got called”
I always told myself that as I got older, things would get better. People wouldn’t call me names because we would all mature and grow up, right? Wrong. As we all matured, the cruelty only matured with it. Even now in college, I constantly hear people calling others horrible names. This culture of bullying and name-calling has got to stop. And it stops with us.
“He lived like the uphills were mountains and the downhills were cliffs, four-fifths suicidal. He tried to kill himself in grade 10 and a kid…had the audacity to tell him to ‘get over it.’”
Becoming a person who is aware of their words and the impact they have on others can be a huge step in the right direction. [Trigger warning] The stigmatism of mental illness in our society is constantly fueled when people say things like “I’m so depressed” or “Kill yourself” in front of people who are struggling with these things. Depression is a disease. OCD is an illness. Suicide is someone’s daily struggle.
“As if depression is something that can be remedied by any of the contents found in a first aid kit.”
I did a semester-long project in my Social Work class this past semester focusing on Mental Illness Awareness on college campuses. I went around campus interviewing professors, student leaders, faculty, and friends. If there is one thing that I can confirm after this process, it is that everyone struggles with something. Everyone struggles, and we need to be aware that some people struggle with things that can be very hard to understand, like autism, depression, anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, ADHD…the list goes on.
“…but at night while the others slept, we kept walking the tightrope. It was practice and yeah, some of us fell. But I want to them that all of this is just debris leftover when we decide to smash all the things we thought we used to be. And if you can’t see anything beautiful about yourself, get a better mirror.”
Dealing with this stuff is (excuse my French) shitty. It’s hard to deal with. It’s been hard for me, so incredibly hard. But there is one thing I do know for sure: you are not alone in this. There are other people who feel like you do. There are other people who understand. When I found people who understood how I felt, I knew that I could get through this with them. We can work as a team to beat this, and it will not be the end of you. You cannot let it win. To those who don’t struggle with this personally, you can help. You can be supportive and understanding.
It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. You are strong and brave, and you can get through the things you are struggling with. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-273-8255 or Text ANSWER to 839863 (24/7) (Here is a list of other hotlines).
Great article on helping loved ones with depression here.
Thank you for reading and for listening. I love you all. ❤
“A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl.” – Stephan Hoeller